Distinguished Workshop Speakers

affolter Markus AFFOLTER

Professor, Developmental Biology, Biozentrum University of Basel, Switzerland

Markus Affolter researches into the cellular and molecular processes involved in the formation of organs and blood vessel networks in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and zebrafish. Markus Affolter has extensively used live-imaging, high-resolution microscopy in studying network formation in Drosophila and zebrafish. This now enables the better understanding of the function of molecules in morphogenesis. Furthermore, his lab has shown, in collaboration with the University of Freiburg, Germany and the University of Lausanne, that the morphogen Dpp and the feedback regulator Pentagone take on key functions in proportional tissue growth (scaling) in the wing disc of the fruit fly.
people_dan_anderson_264x312 Daniel G. ANDERSON

Samuel A. Goldblith Professor of Applied Biology, MIT

Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, MIT

Dan pioneered the use of robotic methods for the development of smart biomaterials for drug delivery and medical devices. His work has led to the first methods rapid synthesis, formulation, analysis, and biological evaluation of large libraries of biomaterials for use in medical devices, cell therapy and drug delivery. In particular, the advanced drug delivery systems he has developed provide new methods for nanoparticulate drug delivery, non-viral gene therapy, siRNA delivery, and vaccines. His patents have led to a number of licenses to biotechnology companies and products that have been commercialized or are in clinical development.
lacraheadshot300 Lacramioara BINTU

Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University

Bintu’s radical new approaches to studying chromatin regulators is leading to a unifying model of chromatin regulation and memory. Her work aims to see changes in gene expression at the individual cell level, how gene expression changes in response to regulation at the individual and population levels, and reversible versus irreversible gene regulation.

Professor of Mechanical Engineering, & Synthetic Biology Center at MIT 

Del Vecchio’s group focuses on model-based analysis, design, and control of biomolecular networks in living cells. The objective is to make the engineering of synthetic genetic circuits in living organisms more robust to context, modular, and hence more scalable. One of our target applications is the design of synthetic genetic circuits that control cell fate to produce patient-specific somatic cells for regenerative medicine. Our approach is grounded on rigorous mathematical analysis of physics-based models of biological network dynamics, on control-theoretic tools for design, and on theory-educated experiments in living cells, from bacterial to mammalian.
el-samad Hana El-SAMAD

Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UC San Francisco School of Medicine

El-Samad’s lab is interested in interdisciplinary research at the interface of cellular biology, dynamical systems modeling, and control theory. We aim to tackle fundamental questions to uncover the basic design principles of biological signaling, including inter-­ and intra­-cellular communication and processing of single and multicellular systems, and evolutionary rewiring of conserved pathways across multiple species. To obtain higher resolution on the molecular mechanisms underlying cellular signaling, The El-Samad group applies quantitative perturbative and measurement tools. It further develops and employs mathematical modeling tools to inform testable hypotheses and uncover predictable structure in high dimensional data.
Esvelt_lab_close2_cropped Kevin ESVELT

Leader, Sculpting Evolution Group, Assistant Professor, MIT Medial Lab, MIT

At the MIT Media Lab, the Sculpting Evolution group explores evolutionary and ecological engineering and responsive science.  We investigate the fundamental parameters governing molecular evolution, uncover new ways of controlling bacterial fitness and horizontal gene transfer, develop safeguards and model systems for evaluating CRISPR gene drive elements, collaborate with groups developing gene drive interventions, and advocate for a new model of responsive science.  Broadly speaking, we seek to learn enough to rectify a fundamental flaw in our universe: evolution has no moral compass.
hasty Jeff HASTY

Professor in the Departments of Molecular Biology and Bioengineering

Director of the BioCircuits Institute

Hasty’s major scientific achievements have been in the fields of synthetic and systems Biology. In synthetic biology, he and his group has established a new paradigm for the design and construction of genetic circuits in living cells. They developed this paradigm by engineering new methods for coupling the dynamics of single cells, such that circuit design is viewed at the level of many interacting colonies of bacteria. In systems biology, they have shown how the regulatory networks that underlie metabolism can mediate the cellular response to a dynamically changing environment.
jaenisch Rudolph JAENISCH

Professor of Biology, MIT

Member, Whitehead Institute

Jaenisch, a Whitehead Founding Member, focuses on understanding epigenetic regulation of gene expression (the biological mechanisms that affect how genetic information is converted into cell structures but that don’t alter the genes in the process). Most recently, this work has led to major advances in our understanding of embryonic stem cells and “induced pluripotent stem” (IPS) cells, which appear identical to embryonic stem cells but can be created from adult cells without using an egg.
peoplelevin Michael LEVIN

Vannevar Bush Professor of Biology, Tufts University

Michael Levin’s work focuses on novel ways to understand and control complex pattern formation. His lab uses molecular genetics, biophysics, and computational modeling approaches to address large-scale control of growth and form in frogs, flatworms, and sometimes zebrafish and human tissues in culture. The goal is to understand the molecular mechanisms necessary for morphogenesis, and also to uncover and exploit the cooperative signaling dynamics that enable complex bodies to build and remodel themselves toward a correct structure. Our major goal is to understand how individual cell behaviors are orchestrated towards appropriate large-scale outcomes despite unpredictable environmental perturbations.
shapiro-inthelab Mikhail SHAPIRO

Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, Affiliated Faulty of Bioengineering and Medical Engineering, Caltech

The Shapiro Lab focuses on molecular engineering imaging and control. It engineers biomolecules with unusual physical properties and uses them to image and control biological function non-invasively, e.g. using magnetic fields and sound waves. To develop such technologies, Shapiro pursues fundamental advances at the interface of molecular and cellular engineering with various forms of physical energy: magnetic, mechanical, thermal and chemical. The lab’s work takes advantage of naturally evolved biological structures with unique physical properties, which are used as starting points for engineering.
 Junghae SUH

Associate Professor of Bioengineering, Rice University

Junghae Suh specializes in designing and investigating gene delivery vectors for various applications in biomedicine. Her Synthetic Virology Laboratory combines broad-based knowledge of protein engineering and molecular/cell biology to engineer the properties of naturally occurring viruses for the treatment of debilitating human diseases. Suh’s basic science and technology development has impacted a variety of fields, including tissue engineering, and the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular and neurological diseases. Since joining Rice in 2007, she has orchestrated various multi-disciplinary projects with researchers at Rice and the Texas Medical Center to develop translational therapeutic technologies.
wagers_0 Amy WAGERS

Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard Medical School

Work in the Wagers Lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms that regulate the function of blood-forming and muscle-forming stem cells so that their potential can be optimally exploited for the treatment of diseases such as cancer, anemia, muscular dystrophy, and diabetes. A major goal of our research has been to identify mechanisms that control the migration and expansion of blood-forming stem cells, with the aim of improving patient outcomes in bone marrow transplant. Our current work suggests that both intrinsic and extrinsic factors cooperate to determine stem cell fate, and we have recently identified particular gene regulators that appear to coordinate stem cell migration and expansion. This new knowledge suggests novel approaches to modulate stem cell activity and ultimately may lead to more effective strategies for bone marrow transplantation.
weiss_photo_resized Ron WEISS

Professor of Biological Engineering, MIT

Director, Synthetic Biology Center at MIT

Weiss began his pioneering work in synthetic biology in 1996 when, as a graduate student, he set up a wet-lab in the MIT EECS Department. His lab uses computer engineering principles of abstraction, composition, and interface specifications to program cells with sensors and actuators precisely controlled by analog and digital logic circuitry. His group constructed synthetic gene networks that implement biochemical logic circuits in E. coli fabricated using the AND, NOT, and IMPLIES logic gates. The Weiss group has also built analog circuits that perform signal processing to detect specific chemical gradients and generate pulses in response to cell-cell communication.