Talk: Engineering the Human Microbiome with Synthetic Biology

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Dr. Harris Wang is one of the few synthetic biologists working in New York City. Join us for an amazing talk about his efforts to engineer the microbes that make up several pounds of our weight!

Microbes are the most abundant and diverse group of organisms in nature, forming intricate and dynamic ecosystems that colonize almost any environment on Earth. Since its inception, the field of synthetic biology has endeavored to endow microbes with new function and to develop new and better microbial engineering approaches for such purposes. Dr. Wang will discuss recent advances in microbial genome engineering that have transformed synthetic biology and highlight emerging technologies that enable rapid reprogramming of bacteria associated with the human body including those that live in the gut and the skin. These new capabilities enable the development of novel probiotics to fight various diseases and future augmentation of human physiological function.

Harris Wang is as an Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the Department of Systems Biology. Dr. Wang received B.S. degrees in mathematics and physics from MIT and a Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard, where he pioneered the Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering platform for rapid and combinatorial genome editing. Dr. Wang’s current research focuses on applying synthetic biology to manipulate microbial communities. Using advanced approaches in genome engineering, gene synthesis, and next-generation sequencing, he studies how genomes in microbial populations form, maintain themselves, and change over time, both within and across microbial communities. Dr. Wang is the recipient of numerous awards including the NIH Director’s Early Independence Award, NSF CAREER Award, Sloan Research Award, and was named in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Science in 2012. His goal is to develop enabling systems and synthetic biology technologies to engineer microbial populations, such as those found in the human gut and elsewhere in the environment, in ways that could address key challenges in health, energy and the environment.