Synthetic Biology: Principles and Applications
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Dr. Jan van der Meer begins by giving a clear outline of what synthetic biology is. He explains that DNA and protein “parts” can be put together to form biological circuits in a manner analogous to making electrical circuits from transformers, capacitors, and the like. These circuits can be designed for many applications in health and agriculture etc. van der Meer concludes his talk by describing work from his lab to engineer biosensor bacteria that can measure toxic compounds in the environment. For example, a simple system of a bacterial cell, which glows in the presence of arsenic, can be used to test drinking water in Bangladesh for high levels of arsenic.
About the Speaker: Jan Roelof van der Meer
Jan van der Meer is a professor at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland) in the Department of Fundamental Microbiology. Previous to his appointment in Lausanne, he worked as group leader at the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Research (Eawag). Dr. van der Meer received his PhD from the Wageningen University and Research Centre, and completed postdoctoral work at the National Dairy Institute in Ede, The Netherlands. His research focuses on how bacteria respond and adapt to contaminated environments, and how these adaptations can be used for useful purposes, such as generating environmental reporters. One application, a bacterial biosensor for arsenic, was awarded the 2010 Erwin Schrödinger Prize.