Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology

Applying Engineering to Biology

Simmplicity, practicality, systematic thinking and the idea that understanding a thing – or a process or a cell – isn't ensured until that thing can be built.“ (HHMI bulletin, 08/2008)

In 2009 the Department of Biology committed itself to focus its research towards a future key technology known as ”Synthetic Biology“. ”Synthetic Biology“ can be defined as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, of novel organisms and devices and the re-design of existing biological systems. The field has developed from the convergence of other disciplines such as genetic engineering, molecular biology, electrical engineering, information theory, nanotechnology and bioinformatics and as such it represents a highly interdisciplinary endeavor. Most important to the field is the inherent key concept of recruiting engineering principles to biology. This includes methodologies such as abstraction, modularity and standardization and therefore defines ”Synthetic Biology“ as the engineering discipline of biology. ”Synthetic Biology“ represents an emerging discipline, however, it promises to become one of the leading technologies for many bio-medical and bioengineering developments in the future.

Early efforts in ”Synthetic Biology" aimed at altering the behavior of individual biological components. However, these initial systems have now evolved to focus on the construction of complex networks in single-cell and multicellular systems and very recent achievements include the development of sophisticated behaviors such as bi-stability, oscillations, proteins and nucleic acids customized for biosensing, optimized drug synthesis and programmed spatial pattern formation. The de novo construction of such systems offers valuable quantitative insight into naturally occurring systems. Furthermore, as the techniques for system design, synthesis and optimization mature, it is reasonable to predict that the field will rapidly grow thereby extending the existing capabilities of synthetic systems with a large number of novel applications.

In order to establish the field as a new research focus, the Dept. has created altogether 4 new faculty positions in the following research areas:

Department of Biology

Thiel Laboratory Membrane Biophysics
Pfeifer Laboratory Regulatory Networks and Bi-Stability in Archaea
Synthetic Protein Membranes
Göringer Laboratory Synthetic Nucleic Acid-Based Sensory Surfaces
Kaldenhoff Laboratory Aquaporins in Synthetic Model Systems
Hamacher Laboratory Computational Biology from the Single Molecule to the Molecular Network
Simon Laboratory Synthetic Microbial Electron Transport Systems
Blüthgen Laboratory Ecological Networks
Cardoso Laboratory DFG Priority Program
Süß Laboratory Synthetic Genetic Circuits and Engineered Riboswitches

Associated Departments

Barbara Drossel Group (Dept. of Physics, TU Darmstadt)
Modeling of Biological Networks on a Cellular Level and the Level of Ecosystems
Steffen Hardt Group (CSI, TU Darmstadt) Electroporetic Partitioning in Two-Phase Microflows
Heinz Koeppl Group (Dept of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, TU Darmstadt)
Bioinspired Communication Systems
Harald Kolmar Group (Biochemistry, Dept. of Chemistry, TU Darmstadt) Usable Systems for the Presentation of Biomacromolecules on Microbial Surfaces
Biofunctionalized Nanoparticles as Molecular Switches