We have more of a newsletter than a newsreel this month, since there’s no summary video. However, that was because we devoted our entire monthly meeting to a thought-provoking critique and discussion of the Human Genome Project-Write, led by Professor Laurie Zoloth. With that said, enjoy the newsreeletter!
Synbio community news:
- Steven Burgess steps down as managing editor at the PLOS SynBio Community. His parting review is typically excellent.
- Great piece on Oxitec’s sterile mosquitos, and the human challenge of testing them in Key West.
- NIH reconsiders its moratorium on human-animal chimera research.
- A PBS article on using CRISPR in grapes turns into a remarkably comprehensive overview of the opportunities and challenges in editing agricultural plants.
- Is NgAgo’s gene editing reproducible? Jury’s still out, but preliminary evidence isn’t good.
- DARPA launches an Engineered Living Materials initiative, with the goal of designing biomaterials that grow into the shape of whatever structure/component. Open for proposals through September!
- Interesting warning about over-hyping technology: a piece on embryonic stem cells and the challenges of treating disease with them.
- If you’re in New York and want to build stuff with bio, you can now take a crash course in making custom biomaterials, put on by New York’s Genspace DIYbio lab.
- If you find yourself in Cambridge, check out Cafe Synthetique, the local synbio salon. Sounds like a GeneMods sister organization!
- Cool profile in STAT of David Baker and co.’s plans to solve problems in the world (mostly diseases, in this piece) with computationally designed proteins.
- Highlights from the 2016 BioDesign Challenge (from last month, but good enough to post anyway).
- Engineered Cas9 with lower off-target effects goes commercial: high-fidelity Cas9 variant from Joung Lab licensed to Editas.
- Total cost of CRISPR patent fight exceeds $20 million and counting.
- DOD gives Ginkgo $2 million to develop probiotic vaccine for traveler’s diarrhea.
Books and Longreads
- I just discovered BioCoder, a quarterly newsletter about synthetic biology from technology media company O’Reilly Media, and I’m really enjoying it.
- Carl Zimmer gets his genome sequenced and analyzed by some of the best researchers in the field. A Game of Genomes chronicles his adventure. A must-read.
- Ed Yong’s fantastic book about the microbes that precede, surround, live on, and comprise us, I Contain Multitudes, came out. I cannot recommend enough that you get your hands (or ears, it’s on Audible!) on this book.
Now, onto the research papers!
- Easily and quickly sensing the presence of small molecules is one of the rate-limiting challenges in metabolic engineering. Now, Savage Lab reports rapid construction of metabolite biosensors using domain insertion profiling.
- Baker Lab does it again, reporting rationally designed, two-component, 120 subunit, icosahedral protein complexes.
- Electrochemical gradients across membranes fundamentally underly pretty much all biological energy production. Fotiadis Lab has now engineered a photo-switchable, light-driven proton pump.
- A Lu Lab collaboration programs yeast and builds a mini bioreactor to produce single doses of multiple biological therapeutics on command.
- A Joung Lab collaboration relaxes Staphylococcus aureus Cas9’s PAM specificity, expanding the sites this smaller programmable nuclease can target.
- It’s been a bumper crop month for making molecular recordings in the genomes of cells. Science published three papers (summarized here): Church Lab reported molecular recordings produced using the actual CRISPR parts of CRISPR (as opposed to Cas9); Lu Lab used recombinases to build state machines in living cells; and a collaboration between Shendure and Schier Labs used Cas9 to record the differentiation and trace the lineage of all the cells in a zebrafish. Then, Lu Lab developed a method to continuously record the presence of Cas9 in human cells using a self-targeting guide RNA.
- Jewett Lab takes a step toward easier natural product mining by expressing non-ribosomal peptide synthetases and producing small-molecule peptides in a cell-free lysate system.
Building biology to understand it
- A massively recoded, 57-codon E. coli? Not quite yet, but Church Lab computationally designs the genome, synthesizes all the parts, and makes progress assembling and testing them.
- Venter Institute edits and interrogates bacterial ribosome genes, on a synthetic bacterial genome in yeast. GenomeWeb has a nice summary if you don’t have time to read the whole paper.
- Review article in ACS SynBio argues that mammalian artificial chromosomes (MACs) are the way of the future.