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Synthetic Biology

MAGE is a technology that is capable of taking a population of cells and adding, deleting, and replacing DNA sequences at very specific target locations within the cellular genome. Learn more...

Wyss scientists are learning how to quickly and cheaply manufacture the building blocks of life -- DNA, RNA, proteins, and cells -- and to generate almost unlimited variations in their shape and structure. DNA is biodegradable and biocompatible, so this unprecedented to ability engineer it from scratch -- mimicking natural evolution and accelerating it in a predetermined way -- gives scientists new tools to reverse cancer in the new era of personalized medicine, deliver drugs to injury sites, and engineer microbes that produce biodegradable plastics. Genetic engineering is to biology, disease treatment, personalized medicine, environmental sustainability and more what Silicon Valley was for computer technology and information: it is a game-changer, and the genetic revolution is upon us.

One team is re-engineering photosynthetic bacteria to produce hydrogen and other fuels -- in essence, transforming groups of cells into biological solar panels. Another is constructing genetic "memory" devices, including on-off switches and counters that effectively function like living transistors for integrated biochip devices. And still another is using powerful new methods including DNA origami and modular 3D nanofabrication techniques to assemble complex shapes out of DNA for "smart" drug delivery and next generation computer circuits.

In addition to using DNA in a way that unearths a whole new landscape of state-of-the-art medical and energy-related applications, this team is using it to store significant amounts of data in unprecedented ways. Because the DNA molecule is so highly dense, it just might be the world's most capable storage unit -- potentially able to house all of the world's information in just a few grams of DNA weighing as much as four paper clips.

Lead Projects and Technologies

MAGE Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering (MAGE)
Altering genomes quicker, easier, cheaper
DNA Synthesis DNA Synthesis and Assembly
New methods for large-scale, affordable synthesis and assembly of genes
Biofuels Designing Better Biofuels
Using genetic engineering tools to overcome the challenges of conventional photosynthesis
CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Editing
Highly efficient and specific genome engineering
Fluorescent in situ sequencing A Bird's Eye View of RNAs
Fluorescent in situ sequencing identifies and locates every RNA in the cell












George Church
James J. Collins
Donald Ingber
William Shih
Pamela Silver
Peng Yin





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Wyss Institute is a winner of the 2012 Webby Awards in the Science category.