New preprint: Computation-guided optimization of split protein systems

We’re thrilled to introduce SPORT, a computational protein design strategy for adjusting reconstitution propensity to fall into the sweet spot for your application. Congratulations to Taylor, Jon, Will, Elizabeth, Alex, and our excellent and key collaborators Srivatsan Raman and Tony Meger. This exciting and collaborative work involved a lot of hard work on both the experimental and computational efforts, and is an exciting step in split protein optimization for a wide array of applications! Check out our preprint here!

Center for Synthetic Biology Faculty work with Artist-at-Large Dario Robleto to think about how their research affects society and are featured in a video about the collaboration

Dario Robleto returns to Northwestern as the new Artist-at-Large, working with faculty all over campus to discuss the implications of their research on society and ethics. Several professors in the Center for Synthetic Biology, including Josh Leonard, Danielle Tullman-Ercek, and Julius Lucks, are featured in a video about the collaboration.

To learn more about this exciting, and thought provoking collaboration, check out the video here!

New pre-print: the COMET mammalian synthetic biology toolkit

We’re thrilled to share a new toolkit for mammalian synthetic biology: the COMET library of synthetic transcription factors, promoters, and accompanying models. Congratulations to Patrick, Joseph, Joe and Hailey and our key collaborator Neda Bagheri! This is true tour-de-force many years in the making, and we’re excited to share this with the community! Check out our preprint here, and follow some twitter discussion here.


Congrats to recent graduates!

Suchitra, Daniel, Austin, Joseph, and Amy all graduated this year with a masters!

Brandon, Vis, and Parth graduate from undergraduate programs, and Vis and Parth continue on to medical school!

Good luck to all in the next phase of their lives! We will miss you!

Josh Leonard participates in interdisciplinary ethics panel at The Block Museum of Art

The Block Museum of Art hosted “Exploring Ethics: Across Art, Humanities, and Science”, a public event that provided researchers in various fields and artists a platform to share their experiences in encountering, raising, and answering new ethical questions as well as engage with the public on these topics. The event featured Northwestern synthetic biologists Danielle Tullman-Ercek, Julius Lucks, and Josh Leonard, as well as Artist-at-Large Dario Robleto and professor of medical education and anthropology Megan Crowley Matoka. Discussions ranged from capturing the ethics of science as art to engage two separate fields and the public, how to best get research to the point of need, and the cultural and ethical impact of organ transplant donation.

See the press release about the event here.

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Northwestern hosts 6th International Mammalian Synthetic Biology Workshop

The conference took place from May 17th-19th on Northwestern University’s campus and brought in researchers from around the world with over 150 in attendance. The first ever pre-conference workshop tutorial series took place on Friday, May 17th, providing an open forum for those new to and experienced in mammalian synthetic biology to ask questions to experts about topics such as sensing, cell signaling and differentiation, gene expression, and protein engineering, with professors Julius Lucks, Leonardo Morsut, Tara Deans, and Danielle Tullman-Ercek leading the discussions. Saturday and Sunday featured talks from experts in mammalian synthetic biology such as Linda Griffith, Melody Swartz, Ron Weiss, Martin Fussenegger, and many more. Leonard Lab member Devin Stranford gave a talk on her extracellular vesicle research and its applications to treating HIV. Additionally, Leonard Lab members Joe Muldoon, Taylor Dolberg, Patrick Donahue, Alex Prybutok, Kate Dray, Joseph Draut, Brandon Lim, Vis Kandula, Parth Shah, and Anthony Kang presented posters at the poster session on Saturday evening. Sunday’s talks concluded with a panel discussing the broader ethical implications and impacts of synthetic biology research, featuring Artist-at-Large Dario Robleto, bioethicist Laurie Zoloth, and historians Ben Hurlbut and Gaymon Bennett. Josh was presented with a commemorative plaque for helping organize and host the conference, which will take place by the Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

See the full press release about the conference here.


Vis receives top award at Stanford Undergraduate Research Conference

Congratulations to Vis Kandula, who received the “Outstanding Presenter” award at this year’s Stanford Undergraduate Research Conference, which took place from April 5-7. Of the 400 participants that applied from around North America, 80 individuals were accepted to present their research projects ranging from topics about experimental life sciences to quantitative social sciences. Vis was selected as an Outstanding Presenter in the experimental life sciences category.


Nature Chemical Biology publishes a News & Views article about Kelly’s NCB Paper

Synthetic biology: Sensing with modular receptors 
Matthew Brenner, Jang Hwan Cho and Wilson W Wong
Sensing and responding to diverse extracellular signals is a crucial aspect of cellular decision-making that is currently lacking in the synthetic biology toolkit. The development of modular receptor platforms allows for the rewiring of cellular input-output relationships.


Congratulations to Andrew Younger for being selected for the Best Mentor Award from Niles West High School


Congratulations to Michelle Hung for being awarded the Excellence in Research Award from the American Society of Cell and Gene Therapy

Science Fair Results!

Niles West High School students, mentored by Andrew Younger, get invited to the Illinois State Science fair and the Intel International Science and Engineering fair in Los Angeles. Good Luck!