Our research group at UCL Biochemical Engineering is at the forefront of innovation in the field of synthetic biology, with a specific emphasis on multiplex genome engineering in yeast, bacteria and mammalian cells. By developing novel methods to simultaneously edit multiple genes or regulatory elements, we aim to accelerate the pace of research and unlock new capabilities in microbial systems.
Genome engineering has seen exponential growth over the last decade, yet traditional methods often involve manipulating one gene at a time. This piecemeal approach is often insufficient for understanding and reconstructing complex cellular behaviors. Multiplex genome engineering allows for the concurrent alteration of multiple genetic targets, enabling more rapid and holistic systems-level studies. The ability to perform high-throughput edits can expedite the design-build-test-learn cycles, thereby fast-tracking research and industrial applications.
Techniques and Tools
Our group employs a wide array of cutting-edge techniques to achieve high-precision, multiplexed edits. Some of these include:
- CRISPR/Cas Systems: Optimized variants for both yeast and bacteria, including dCas9 for gene repression or activation.
- Golden Gate Assembly: For rapid and efficient cloning of multiple fragments in a single reaction.
- Recombinase-based methods: Utilizing site-specific recombinases for the precise integration of large DNA constructs.
- High-throughput sequencing: To validate and characterize the edited genomes.
The applications of our work span both fundamental science and industrial use-cases, including but not limited to:
- Biofuel Production: Engineering microbial communities for more efficient conversion of biomass to biofuels.
- Pharmaceuticals: Development of microbial strains for the production of high-value compounds, such as therapeutic proteins or small molecules.
- Alternative foods/food additives: Development of microbial strains for the production of edible oils, alternative proteins, food fragrances and dyes among others
- Environmental Remediation: Designing bacteria capable of breaking down pollutants or capturing carbon dioxide.
- Functional Genomics: Elucidating the function of unknown genes through multiplex knockout or overexpression experiments.