2013 Biotech & Standards Conference Moderator: Ron Weiss
Associate Professor of Bioengineering & Electrical Engineering Computer Science; Director, Synthetic Biology Center, Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Prof. Weiss is one of the pioneers of synthetic biology. He has been engaged in synthetic biology research since 1996 when he was a graduate student at MIT and where he helped set up a wet-lab in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department. After completion of his PhD, Weiss joined the faculty at Princeton University, and recently returned to MIT to take on a tenured faculty position in the Department of Biological Engineering and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The research pursued by Weiss since those early days has placed him in a position of leadership in the field, as evidenced both by publications from his lab as well as a variety of awards and other forms of recognition. He has pursued several different aspects of synthetic biology, beginning with synthesis of gene networks that are engineered to perform in vivo analog and digital logic computation. The Weiss lab also published seminal papers in synthetic biology focused on programming cell aggregates to perform coordinated tasks using engineered cell-cell communication with chemical diffusion mechanisms such as quorum sensing. Several of these manuscripts were featured in a recent Nature special collection of a select number of synthetic biology papers reflecting on the first 10 years of synthetic biology. While work in the Weiss lab began mostly with prokaryotes, during the last 5 years a majority of the research in the lab shifted to mammalian synthetic biology. The lab focuses both on foundational research, e.g. creating general methods to improve our ability to engineering biological systems, as well as pursuing specific health related applications where synthetic biology provides unique capabilities.