Jim is developing innovative ways to reprogram organisms, particularly bacteria, to perform desired tasks, such as detecting and treating infections. These re-engineered organisms could lead to cheaper drugs, rapid diagnostic tests, and synthetic probiotics to treat antibiotic-resistant infections and a range of complex diseases. Jim’s research group works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance. His work is part of the new field of synthetic biology, which Jim founded by combining science and engineering to construct biological circuits that can program organisms, much like we program computers now. He is also a pioneer in systems biology, stochastic resonance, biological dynamics, and neurostimulation, with the goal of improving the function of physiological and biological systems. His research has led to a new class of medical devices, such as vibrating insoles that provide sensory enhancement stimulation to the feet of the user. Jim’s team at the Wyss is developing these insoles for a variety of purposes, such as improving balance among elderly users.
Jim is the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT, as well as a member of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology Faculty. He is a Core Faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and an Institute Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His many awards include a Rhodes Scholarship, a MacArthur “Genius Award,” a National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award, as well as numerous teaching awards. He has been named to the Technology Review list of top 100 young innovators and the Scientific American list of top 50 outstanding leaders in science and technology. Jim is also an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, as well as a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors. He chairs the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of Synlogic, Sample6 Technologies and EnBiotix, and serves on the SAB of Joule Unlimited, enEvolv, Indigo, Agilis Biotherapeutics and Aquinnah Pharmaceuticals.