Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Collins, James J.
Location Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Primary Field Engineering Sciences
Secondary Field Biophysics and Computational Biology
 Election Citation
Collins pioneered the application of engineering principles to molecular biology, leading to the development of the field of synthetic biology. He has made fundamental discoveries regarding the actions of antibiotics and the emergence of resistance, and developed noise-based techniques and devices for enhancing human sensory function and balance control.
 Research Interests
James J. Collins' laboratory is focused on using engineering principles and molecular biology techniques to model, design and construct synthetic gene networks. They have created genetic toggle switches, RNA switches, genetic counters, microbial kill switches, synthetic bacteriophage to combat resistant bacterial infections, synthetic probiotics to detect-and-treat infections, synthetic mRNA for stem cell reprogramming, and tunable mammalian genetic switches. Recently, the Collins lab developed paper-based synthetic gene networks, a technology platform that forms the basis for inexpensive, in vitro diagnostic tests (e.g., Ebola) and portable molecular manufacturing (e.g., vaccines) in the developing world. The lab's work in synthetic biology has enabled multiple biomedical applications, including in vivo biosensing, antibiotic potentiation, biofilm eradication, in vitro pathogen detection, rapid antibiotic susceptibility testing, identification of antibiotic counterfeits, drug target identification/validation, microbiome reengineering, and efficient stem cell reprogramming. The Collins lab also uses network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of antibiotic resistance, with the goal of utilizing the insights gained from these studies to enhance our existing antibiotic arsenal and develop novel means to treat resistant and persistent bacterial infections.

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