AUG 22, 2013 08:00 AM PDT

Aliens, Computers & Engineering Biology - An Introduction to Synthetic Biology

  • Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford, and President of The BioBricks Foundation
      Drew Endy developed the world's first "fabless" genetic engineering teaching lab in the new Bioengineering program at Stanford and previously helped start the Biological Engineering major at MIT. His Stanford research team develops genetically encoded computers and redesigns genomes. He co-founded the BioBricks Foundation as a public-benefit charity supporting free-to-use standards and technology that enable the engineering of biology. He co-organized the International Genetically Engineered Machines ( competition, the BIOFAB International Open Facility Advancing Biotechnology (, and Gen9, Inc. ( He serves on the US Committee on Science Technology and Law and is a new voting member of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity. He chaired the 2003 Synthetic Biology study as a member of DARPA ISAT, served as an ad hoc member of the US NIH Recombinant DNA Advisor Committee, and co-authored the 2007 "Synthetic Genomics: Options for Governance" report with colleagues from the Center for Strategic & International Studies and the J. Craig Venter Institute. Esquire named Endy one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century. He lives in Menlo Park CA with his wife and Stanford Bioengineering colleague Prof. Christina Smolke.

    Synthesis and assembly of DNA powerfully enables reverse genetics-based approaches to scientific discovery. I'll present recent and unpublished work on genome refactoring and redesign, focusing on identification of cryptic genetic elements and genome decompression. Next, I'll summarize work published over the past year in which we reported the first non-volatile and rewritable digital genetic data storage systems, amplifying genetic logic gates, and programmed cell-cell communication via arbitrary DNA messages. These experiences will be used to frame ten years of research in synthetic biology, by which the foundational engineering ideas of abstraction and standardization have finally been shown as not impossible to make true, and that when made true enable our designer DNA systems to work reliably the first time.

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