Specialized metabolites, also known as 'natural products', are small molecules produced by plants, animals, and microorganisms that have had a society-changing impact in areas such as medicine, agriculture, and food production. Natural product research is poised to enter a new 'Golden Age', as currently available genome sequences contain the information required to produce tens of thousands of new molecules. Mining these genomes for the molecules they encode promises to re-invigorate our waning drug discovery pipelines, for example to find new antibiotics against drug-resistant pathogens. One focus of our group is to leverage new synthetic DNA technologies for the sequence-guided discovery of new bioactive molecules.
The precipitous drop in costs associated with DNA sequencing that has occured over the past two decades has revolutionized the life sciences by changing the types of questions we can ask about our world. We are in the midst of a similar drop in DNA synthesis costs; complementing our ability to 'read' genome sequences with the new ability to 'write' genome sequences. This is an exciting time to be a researcher, as synthetic DNA technologies are changing Biology from a descriptive science to an engineering science; we can now start asking 'What is possible in biology?' using genetic information as a starting material. While it is already technically feasable to write entire genomes, designing genetic devices that behave in the desired way is still challenging. We are working to develop new precision genetic engineering tools to enable genetic (re-)design in diverse organisms. Read more about our research interests