SynBio Canada
SynBio Canada

Academic Profiles

Academic Profiles

Dr. Trevor Charles
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Professor, Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research, University of Waterloo / CSO, Metagenom Bio Inc.

Email Address: tcharles@uwaterloo.ca

Bio: Professor Charles is a microbiologist with expertise in bacterial molecular genetics. His research group studies the mechanisms of gene regulatory circuits that control the interactions of Rhizobiales bacteria such as Sinorhizobium meliloti with their eukaryal hosts.

The group also develops methods for functional metagenomics using alternate surrogate hosts, and employs these methods to isolate novel genes with interesting functions from microbial community genomic libraries.

Current research emphasis is on functional metagenomics, bioplastics and bacterial genome engineering.

Website: https://uwaterloo.ca/biology/people-profiles/trevor-c-charles

Twitter: @trevorcharles

Dr. Cesar de la Fuente-Nunez
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Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Email Address: cfuente@pennmedicine.upenn.edu

Bio: Our research focuses on the design of novel synthetic peptide molecules using principles inspired by synthetic biology, computational biology, and microbiology. Our current application areas include infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, the microbiome, biomaterials and nanotechnology.

In particular, we focus on redesigning tiny proteins called peptides, which are the workhorses of life, and a source of biologically active molecules with under-explored therapeutic potential. The 20 natural amino acids that make up these molecules offer an almost unlimited number of combinations unparalleled by other polymers such as DNA (20n; n being the number of amino acids present in any given peptide chain). Many other non-canonical residues can also be incorporated into peptide chains via peptide design approaches. In addition, peptides are promising drugs because their primary amino acid sequences can be easily tuned to achieve specific biological functions inside living cells.

Despite their promise, peptide-based therapeutics have largely remained unexplored due to the limited diversity of naturally occurring peptide scaffolds, their cost, and a lack of methods to design them rationally. Using principles from peptide engineering, synthetic biology and computational biology, we investigate how simple nanopeptides may be exploited and rationally designed for a range of medical applications. In addition, we aim to build completely new protein/peptide structures not known to the biological world, and biomaterials for applications in synthetic biology, biotechnology and medicine.

Website: https://delafuentelab.seas.upenn.edu/

Dr. Steven Hallam
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Professor, University of British Columbia

Email Address: shallam@mail.ubc.ca

Bio: Dr. Steven Hallam is a University of California Santa Cruz and MIT trained molecular biologist, microbial ecologist, entrepreneur, and innovator with over 20 years experience in field and laboratory research at disciplinary interfaces. He is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, former Canada Research Chair in Environmental Genomics and a Leopold Leadership Fellow. He is also a program faculty member in the Bioinformatics and Genome Sciences and Technology training programs at UBC.

Dr. Hallam directs the ECOSCOPE innovation ecosystem consisting of an NSERC CREATE training program, a research network, a core facility for high-throughput screening and a curriculum development initiative in data science based on four research and training pillars: i) microbial ecology, ii) biological engineering, iii) data science, and iv) networking and entrepreneurship. His research intersects these program pillars with specific emphasis on the creation of functional screens and computational tools that reveal hidden metabolic powers of uncultivated microbial communities with direct application to biocatalyst discovery and pathway engineering.

Website: http://ecoscope.ubc.ca

Twitter: @HallamLab

Dr. Mads Kaern
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Professor, University of Ottawa

Bio: I believe that Synthetic Biology will continue to play a significant role in medical innovation, including engineered virus and engineered immune cells that can cure cancer. I have been part of the Synthetic Biology community since the early 00' and started working in the field with Dr. James Collins on sources of "noisy" signals in gene expression and the engineering of programable cell behaviour by creating "plug-ins" for interfacing synthetic gene networks and natural signalling pathways. To facilitate medical advances, I am member of the Cancer Therapeutics Program at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and the Regional Genetics Program at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

My NSERC-funded Synthetic Biology program uses an integrated genetic network engineering approach to study gene regulatory processes and develop artificial gene control systems. This program is driven by my long-term passion to understand how genomes encode "programs" that control and coordinate cellular behaviour and organismal development and fail during disease. This involves both foundational and applied research, including DNA assembly methods, artificial transcription factors, biological network design, systems modelling and simulation.

I initiated the uOttawa iGEM undergraduate training program soon after I arrived in Ottawa and have been the organizer and the supervisor of the uOttawa iGEM team. Many iGEM team members have continued as graduate students in my program subsequently moved to world-leading institutions including MIT, Cambridge, Harvard and NYU.

Website: https://bynd.com/news-ideas/google-advanced-search-comprehensive-list-google-search-operators/

Dr. Bogumil Karas

Assistant Professor, Biochemistry, University of Western Ontario / CEO Designer Microbes

Email Address: bkaras@uwo.ca

Bio: Research in the Karas lab is focused on developing innovative genetic tools to enable the engineering of microbes to produce medicines, DNA storage technologies, food and next-generation fuels. We are using a multi-host system to perform in vivo gene deletions, additions and replacements. This approach was designed to take advantage of existing genetic tools developed for model organisms, including Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Currently, we are developing novel tools for eukaryotic algae: Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Thalassiosira pseudonana and soil bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti.

Website: https://www.schulich.uwo.ca/biochem/people/bios/Karas.html

Twitter: @BogumilKaras

Dr. Radhakrishnan Mahadevan
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Professor, Associate Chair & Graduate Studies Coordinator, University of Toronto

Email Address: krishna.mahadevan@utoronto.ca

Bio: Our group primarily works on engineering metabolism in bacteria and yeast to produce chemicals and therapeutic molecules. Through the use of computational strategies on genome scale metabolic models of these organisms, we identify genetic intervention strategies to enhance target molecule production. Synthetic biological tools help us assemble and engineer pathways in microorganisms. We use synthetic gene regulatory circuits to dynamically control metabolism in host organisms. The ability to dynamically control metabolism based on environmental inputs finds application in a variety of different areas including therapeutics and industrial biotechnology.

Website: www.lmse.utoronto.ca

Twitter: @LMSE_UofT

Dr. Vincent Martin
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Professor, Concordia University and Co-Director, Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology

Email Address: vincent.martin@concordia.ca

Bio: We are synthetic biologists with a strong penchant for metabolic engineering and industrial strain improvement. We like yeast but will play with other unicellular bugs as well.

Website: https://www.concordia.ca/research/casb.html

Dr. Scott McComb
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Research Officer, National Research Council of Canada; University of Ottawa

Email Address: scott.mccomb@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

Bio: Chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR-T) are an exciting new avenue to redirect immune cells to target and kill cancer. While breakthroughs in CAR-T therapy have led to life-saving treatments for patients with previously incurable leukemia, such therapies have been less successful against solid tumours. Moreover, the determinants of long term cancer regression in CAR-T treated patients are not yet well understood. Using genome editing, we are dissecting the mechanisms of programmed cell death and other immune signalling pathways in T cells in order to improve their effectiveness against cancer. Our long term goal is to create super-functional gene-edited cell therapies to treat currently intractable illnesses such as cancer and autoimmunity.

Website: https://med.uottawa.ca/bmi/people/mccomb-scott

Dr. David McMillen
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Associate Professor, University of Toronto Mississauga

Email Address: david.mcmillen@utoronto.ca

Bio: We work on (mainly) microbial synthetic biology, investigating ways to create novel solutions to real-world problems with engineered microbes. We pursue several parallel tracks: (1) Combined theoretical and experimental approaches to biological feedback and synthetic implementations of networks that maintain fixed outputs in the face of external disturbances; (2) Expanding the synthetic biology "toolkit" to include novel modes of regulation (including a recruitable T7-based activation system that provides a system to generate programmable, orthogonal sets of transcriptional activators in bacteria); and (3) the motivation for the other two tracks: application to real-world problems including human health in the developed world (working with a multi-PI team on sensing and responding to inflammatory bowel diseases using engineered microbes) and in the developing world (implementing microbe-based antibody detection in blood samples, for low-cost blood screening or diagnosis).

Website: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/mcmillen-lab/

Twitter: @DaveMcMillen

Dr. Moira McQueen

Executive Director, Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, University of St Michael's College, University of Toronto, (LLB, M Div, PhD)

Bio: As a bioethicist, I am interested in the science and development of synthetic biology and in ethical questions that arise from its use, as well as in its impact on health care, the workforce and the environment.

Website: www.ccbi-utoronto.ca

Twitter: @moiramcqueen

Dr. Laurent Potvin-Trottier
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Professor, Concordia University

Bio: We aim to engineer reliable synthetic gene circuits suitable for impactful applications, and to use them as models and tools to learn more about biology. We use quantitative approaches, combining microfluidics to precisely control the experimental conditions with theory to engineer highly precise circuits that could be used in future applications. Building biology from the bottom-up will enable us to understand biology better, for example because engineering such circuits can reveal broader challenges in a tractable context.

Website: www.potvinlab.com

Dr. Sebastien Rodrigue

Professor, Université de Sherbrooke

Email Address: sebastien.rodrigue@usherbrooke.ca

Bio: My laboratory is mainly interested in microbial systems and synthetic biology. We use and develop cutting-edge approaches to understand and engineer bacterial cells. We use two model organisms: the near-minimal Mesoplasma florum, and the laboratory workhorse Escherichia coli. Our goal is not only to advance fundamental knowledge but also to propose innovative solutions to address the major challenges of this century.

Website: http://lab-rodrigue.recherche.usherbrooke.ca

Twitter: @RodrigueLab