The aim of this Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship (Evolving Together) is to develop an innovative new system for directed co-evolution of ligand-receptor pairs in two different cell populations. This novel cell-to-cell directed evolution platform will facilitate the development of synthetic, orthogonal intercellular signaling pathways that can be applied to control and manipulate cells by user-defined expression of a target gene. The selection of the reporter gene can be extremely flexible, which allows full customization of the downstream cellular response, such as programming self-organized cellular patterns or targeting specific cell populations. This Fellowship will be undertaken under the supervision of Prof. Tom Ellis (Imperial College London Centre for Synthetic Biology), who is internationally renowned in synthetic biology and is leading the UK’s effort in the Synthetic Yeast Genome Project (Sc2.0) one of the world’s largest synthetic biology projects to date. My proposed research brings together many aspects of synthetic biology and molecular biology techniques, including molecular cloning, cell culture, protein and genome engineering, directed evolution, and next generation sequencing (NGS). In addition, we will extensively use fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) and confocal imaging to isolate and characterize the populations of interest. These techniques combine skills I’ve acquired during previous research along with the expertise and methods of Tom Ellis’ group. Evolving Together presents an opportunity to make a major new innovation in directed evolution that can impact various fields of biology and biomedicine such as signaling, protein engineering, biomaterials, synthetic biology and therapeutics.
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