Past Meetup

Idealab: engineering E. coli to deliver anticancer payloads

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Come join IdeaLab, the global DIYbio Journal Club. Every other week, we will be discussing in detail a recent paper from the bioscience literature, with online participants from Counter Culture Labs, BioCurious, Genspace, and other DIYbio groups.

This week Yuriy Fazylov will lead us on a discussion of a paper from Chris Anderson's lab at Berkeley:

Modular Design of a Synthetic Payload Delivery Device (

Jin H. Huh, Josh T. Kittleson, Adam P. Arkin, and J. Christopher Anderson

Predictable engineering of complex biological behaviors using characterized molecular functions remains a key challenge in synthetic biology. To explore the process of engineering biological behaviors, we applied a modular design strategy to the development of E. coli that deliver macromolecules to the cytoplasm of cancer cells in vitro. First, we specified five abstract, qualitative behaviors that would act in concert to achieve payload delivery. Drawing from disparate sources of previously described genetic components, we then designed, constructed, and tested individual genetic circuits to implement each module. Subsequent coupling of the modules and system optimization, aided by quantitative predictions, generated a system that delivers proteins to 80% of targeted cancer cells. Development of an effective delivery system provides strong evidence that advanced cellular behaviors, not just transcriptional circuits, can be rationally decomposed into a series of functional genetic modules and then constructed to achieve the target activity with the existing synthetic biology toolkit.

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