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Aditya KunjapurChemical and Biomolecular EngineeringUniversity of DelawareNewark, DE
Whether in our guts or in the environment, microbes play critical roles in shaping the health of natural systems. Thanks to advances in synthetic biology, we can reliably engineer microbes to augment their natural capabilities or to impart them with new-to-nature functions. Our potential use of engineered microbes in open systems rather than in bioreactors could help address diverse challenges in human and environmental health. However, we face a few barriers before this can be done effectively and safely. First, we cannot yet engineer microbial factories to produce many of the kinds of functional group chemistries that are characteristic of the most effective synthetic medicines, agrochemicals, or materials. Second, we cannot yet reliably control the proliferation of an engineered microbe that might be released into the environment to mitigate the risk of unintended consequences. Our lab has been making exciting progress tackling both of these topics, all with a common big picture strategy of programming cells to create and harness rare building blocks. In this talk, I will focus on a few important building blocks and functional group chemistries. I will describe what their new capabilities and safeguards their biosynthesis enables as well as our efforts to engineer cells to be more compatible with important functional group chemistries.