2/2, LSBM Monday Seminar Series #14, Tom Ellis, Synthetic Yeast Genomes and Synthetic Clusters

Presenter: Professor Tom Ellis
Affiliation: Imperial College Centre for Synthetic Biology, Department of Bioengineering, Imperial College London
Date: Feb 2nd (Wed), 6:00pm~





The international project to construct a synthetic version of the yeast genome (Sc2.0) has been one of the highest visibility research projects in synthetic biology in the last decade. As this grand project draws to a close, Sc2.0 partners are now beginning to use the tools and knowledge of synthetic yeast genome assembly to ask new questions of yeast biology and genomics, and develop new biotechnologies. As a milestone towards custom, modular genome, we are now using synthetic genomics to examine and exploit Synthetic Clusters, where sets of genes that encode a common function are relocated from their native genomic loci into new synthetic defragmented or refactored clusters in the chromosomes. We have used this synthetic cluster method to fine-tune pheromone sensing for biosensor systems, and are now employing it to the explore the minimal gene set for the cell cycle. In new work, we have written synthetic clusters for aromatic amino acid biosynthesis pathways and are using these as a test bed for building new tools for inducible heterochromatin-silencing and other forms of master regulation.



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Tom Ellis obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Michael J. Waring in 2004, examining drugs that bind directly to the promoter elements of cancer genes. Prof Ellis followed-up his PhD research at a the biotech company Spirogen where he set-up a biological screening unit and developed high-throughput assays to characterise the interactions between drugs and oncogene promoters.

Prof Ellis returned to academic research in 2006 to spend two years investigating synthetic biology at Boston University, USA. Working in one of the founding groups of the field under the supervision of Jim Collins, Prof Ellis devised a synthesis-based library approach to engineering gene regulatory networks and was able to model and implement this method in nonlinear systems and with phenotypes relevant to biofuel and beer production.

In 2009 before joining Imperial College, Prof Ellis returned to the UK to research synthetic biology at the Institute of Biotechnology at University of Cambridge.