Events Calendar

ChE Seminar Series - Thinking Outside of the Bioreactor: How Biosynthesis of Rare Building Blocks Can Create New Capabilities and Safeguards for Engineered Microbes

Tuesday, November 28, 2023
3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Location: EER 3.646

Microbes play critical roles in the natural world, whether in our guts or in the environment. Thanks to advances in synthetic biology, we are beginning to reliably engineer a vast arsenal of microbes to augment their natural capabilities or to impart them with entirely novel functions. Our potential use of these enhanced microbes in open systems rather than bioreactors could help address diverse challenges in human and environmental health, but we face a few barriers before this can be done effectively and safely. First, we cannot yet engineer our microbial factories to produce many of the kinds of functional group chemistries that belong to effective synthetic medicines, agrochemicals, or materials. Second, we cannot yet reliably introduce a genetically modified microbe into the environment and limit its proliferation, to prevent it from potentially becoming an invasive species that brings unintended consequences. Our lab has been making exciting progress tackling both of these topics, all with a common big picture strategy: Programming cells to create and harness rare building blocks. In this talk, I will describe a few of our favorite functional group chemistries and our efforts to engineer cells to be more compatible with them. Then, I will spend more time highlighting three examples of how microbial biosynthesis and utilization of non-standard amino acids can create new capabilities and safeguards for applications outside of the bioreactor.

Aditya Kunjapur is an Assistant Professor in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. Aditya earned B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemical Engineering from UT-Austin (2010) and MIT (2015). He then conducted post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School in the laboratory of George Church (2018). The Kunjapur lab investigates how to program cells to create and harness new-to-nature building blocks to help address problems in human and environmental health. Aditya’s work has been recognized by awards from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the Office of Naval Research, the National Institutes of Health, and the Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.

Speaker: Dr. Aditya M. Kunjapur, University of Delaware