Rice University creates innovative new institute for synthetic biology
Rice University announced this month that it has officially launched the new Rice Synthetic Biology Institute.
The institute aims to strengthen the synthetic biology community across disciplines at the university, according to an announcement from Rice. It is part of an $82 million investment the university put toward synthetic biology, neuroengineering, and physical biology in 2018.
RSBI will be led by Caroline Ajo-Franklin, professor of biosciences, bioengineering, and chemical and biomolecular engineering, with support from a faculty steering committee. “At Rice, we have such deep expertise in synthetic biology,” Ajo-Franklin said in the announcement. “Connecting that deep expertise through this institute will lead to better science and more innovation.”
Synthetic biology is a discipline in which "researchers design living systems with new properties to address societal needs," according to Rice, with applications in medicine, manufacturing and environmental sustainability.
The university says that there are currently 18 faculty and more than 100 students and postdoctoral scholars at Rice working in this field within the schools of engineering and natural sciences.
The institute will initially focus on four research themes:
- Controlling the biological synthesis and patterning of proteins and cells into living materials that self-replicate and self-repair across a range of length scales
- Understanding cells as natural sensors and repurposing them into living therapeutics to detect and treat diseases, maintain health and prevent infections
- Developing living electronics to convert biochemical information into information-dense electronic signals in real-time at the cell-material interface
- Supporting cross-cutting scholarship aimed at accelerating the Design-Build-Test-Learn cycle and understanding the ethical, legal and social implications of translating these technologies into the public domain.
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