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Surrey secures £376,000 grant to explore cellular economics

Dr Jose Jimenez, Lecturer in Synthetic Biology, has won BBSRC funding to research how cells distribute the resources needed for gene expression and how this process could be modified for practical use.

E.coli bacteria

Studying E.coli as an example, Dr Jimenez aims to unravel the characteristics of the cell economy – where all genes, including the exogenous, compete for the same transcriptional and translational machinery – and explore the hypothesis that the distribution of resources in the cell can be optimised.

This work will allow the insertion of genes in bacterial cells as sets of modules with little interaction with the host. Achieving modular genetic circuits with predictable properties - in a similar way as it is done in electrical engineering - is one of the main goals of synthetic biology.

Dr Jimenez said, “By understanding how different genes compete for the same cell machinery in what can be seen as a ‘free market’, we hope to produce cells with an improved distribution, and design genetic circuits that take advantage of that and use resources more efficiently.

“This is important for biotechnology (the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products), especially when genes from other organisms are inserted into a host for a particular function, such as in the production of drugs or the detection of pollutants.”

The project will start in February 2015 and run for three years. A preliminary description of genes contributing to improve the cell economy is expected by the end of 2015.

Learn more about our Computational & Systems Biology Research Group and programmes in the field of Biosciences and Medicine.

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