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[Past Seminar]July,7,2017 Synthetic Biology: A New Engine for the Third Wave of Biotechnology

    Synthetic Biology: A New Engine for the Third Wave of Biotechnology


    Huimin Zhao


    Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801


    Time:July,7,2017 2:00 pm


    Place: BUCT Library Multifunctional Conference Room








    Synthetic biology is the design of novel or improved biological systems using engineering principles. It is a rapidly growing area with broad applications in medical, chemical, food, and agricultural industries and particularly has become a powerful engine for the exponential growth of the industrial biotechnology industry. In this talk, I will briefly discuss the challenges and opportunities in synthetic biology and highlight our recent work in the development and application of novel foundational synthetic biology tools. Specifically, I will introduce the Illinois Biological Foundry for Advanced Biomanufacturing (iBioFAB) that we have been establishing and discuss its potential biotechnological applications such as development of high throughput genome-editing tools, large-scale discovery of novel natural products for drug discovery, and automated cellular engineering of microbial factories for production of chemicals and fuels.






   Dr. Huimin Zhao is the Steven L. Miller Chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and professor of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).  He received his B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992 and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 under the guidance of Dr. Frances Arnold.  Prior to joining UIUC in 2000, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company.  He was promoted to full professor in 2008.  Dr. Zhao has authored and co-authored over 260 research articles and over 20 issued and pending patent applications with several being licensed by industry.  In addition, he has given plenary, keynote or invited lectures in over 300 international meetings, universities, industries, and research institutes.  Fifteen (17) of his former graduate students and postdocs became professors in the United States (7), China (7), Korea (2), and Egypt (1).

    Dr. Zhao received numerous research and teaching awards and honors, including Charles Thom Award (2016), Elmer Gaden Award (2014), Guggenheim Fellowship (2012), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) (2010), Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) (2009), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Food, Pharmaceutical, and Bioengineering Division Plenary Award Lecturer (2009), the American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Biochemical Technology Young Investigator Award (2008), Outstanding Overseas Young Chinese Scholars Award (2007), DuPont Young Professor Award (2005), National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2004), Dow Chemical Special Recognition Award (1999), University Scholar from UIUC (2007), Petit Scholar from UIUC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (2006), and Xerox Award for Faculty Research from UIUC College of Engineering (2005).

    Dr. Zhao served as a consultant for over 10 companies such as Pfizer, Maxygen, BP, Gevo, and zuChem, and a Scientific Advisory Board member of Gevo, Myriant Technologies, Toulouse White Biotechnology (TWB) and AgriMetis.  He was a member of National Academies’ study group on Industrialization of Biology: A Roadmap to Accelerate Advanced Manufacturing of Chemicals.  He is currently an advisor to the Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental Research program and the visiting principal investigator of the metabolic engineering research laboratory (MERL) in the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) of Singapore, Qiushi visiting chair professor in Zhejiang University in China and Visiting Professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.  In addition, he is the theme leader of the Biosystems Design theme in the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at UIUC.  Dr. Zhao is an Associate Editor of ACS Catalysis and an editor of ACS Synthetic Biology, Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology, Scientific Reports, Biocatalysis, and Engineering in Life Sciences. His primary research interests are in the development and applications of synthetic biology tools to address society’s most daunting challenges in health, energy, and sustainability, and in the fundamental aspects of enzyme catalysis, cell metabolism, and gene regulation.