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Computational Synthetic Biology: Progress and the Road Ahead

Chris Myers ( University of Utah )

Synthetic biology promises to leverage engineering principles to enable model-based design of genetic circuits. In model-based design, practitioners exploit computational models and analysis tools to efficiently explore the design space before producing a physical artifact. Unfortunately, creating such a model-based design approach for synthetic biology has proven to be very challenging. The goal of this talk is to both highlight the progress in the development of computational methods to support synthetic biology and the remaining challenges that must be overcome before synthetic biology can realize its full potential.  In particular, there are three critical aspects for model-based design for synthetic biology: (1) standards, (2) abstraction, and (3) decoupling. This talk will present recent results using standards, such as the Synthetic Biology Open Language (SBOL) to create repositories of well-characterized components that can reliably be used and re-used.   This talk will also present abstraction methods that leverage efficient analysis techniques, such as stochastic model checking, to enable designers to efficiently explore the design space for large, complex designs. Finally, this talk will present results on developing automated synthesis techniques inspired from digital electronic circuit design that have the potential to decouple concerns of design from those of fabrication. While much work remains to be done for computational methods to truly have impact on experimental synthetic biology, collaborations between computational and experimental synthetic biologists have the potential for tremendous benefits in the areas of health, energy, and the environment.

Speaker bio

Chris J. Myers received the B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and Chinese history in 1991 from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, and the M.S.E.E. and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University, Stanford, CA, in 1993 and 1995, respectively. He is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. Dr. Myers is the author of over 150 technical papers and the textbooks Asynchronous Circuit Design and Engineering Genetic Circuits. He is also a co-inventor on 4 patents. His research interests include asynchronous circuit design, formal verification of analog/mixed signal circuits and cyber-physical systems, and modeling, analysis, and design of genetic circuits. Dr. Myers received an NSF Fellowship in 1991, an NSF CAREER award in 1996, and best paper awards at the 1999 and 2007 Symposiums on Asynchronous Circuits and Systems. Dr. Myers is a Fellow of the IEEE, and he is a Member of the Editorial Board for ACS Synthetic Biology, Engineering Biology, Synthetic Biology and IEEE Life Sciences Letters and has served on the Editorial Boards for the IEEE Transactions on VLSI Systems, IEEE Design & Test Magazine, and Springer journal on Formal Methods in System Design. Dr. Myers has also served as an editor for the Systems Biology Markup Language (SBML) standard and is on the steering committee for the Synthetic Biology Open Language (SBOL) standard.

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