Establishing Cell-free Biology for the Production of Sustainable Materials and Chemicals
Imagine a world in which we could adapt biology to manufacture any chemical or material from renewable resources, both quickly and on demand. Scientists can already re-engineer organisms for use as cellular factories to make fuels for our cars and targeted therapeutics. However, the current approach to engineering cells is prohibitively laborious and difficult because of our incomplete knowledge of how life works, and because—unlike typical engineered systems—cells have their own agenda such as growth and adaptation.
To overcome these limitations, we are developing cell-free biology as an enabling technology for biomanufacturing life-saving protein therapeutics, carbon-neutral synthetic products (e.g., chemical monomers), and novel sequence-controlled materials. Specifically, we focus on designing, constructing, and modifying biological systems involved in protein synthesis and metabolism, with promise to advance new paradigms for synthetic biology.
In this presentation, I will discuss our efforts to:
- (i) develop cost-effective, high-throughput cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) platforms,
- (ii) construct and evolve ribosomes, and
- (iii) enable cell-free metabolic engineering as a flexible technology for manufacturing basic value added chemicals from renewable resources.
Ultimately, the impact of our work lies in its ability to enable a deeper understanding of why nature’s designs work the way they do and to manipulate biology with unmatched precision, making possible the sustainable production of chemicals and materials that have been impractical—if not impossible—by other means.
About the speaker:
Michael Jewett is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Northwestern University. He is a member of the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute and the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center, both at Northwestern University.
After completing postdoctoral studies as an NSF International Research Fellow at the Center for Microbial Biotechnology in Denmark and as an NIH Pathway to Independence Fellow at the Harvard Medical School, he joined Northwestern in 2009. Focusing on cell-free biology, Dr. Jewett’s research seeks to develop enabling technologies for biomanufacturing personalized medicines, sustainable fuels and chemicals, and novel materials, both quickly and on demand.