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TX-TL for Synthetic Biology Applications

Sample preparation of eppendorf tubes

From 1996 to 2000, Vincent Noireaux worked in the laboratory of Jacques Prost at the Curie Institute. He joined the laboratory of Albert Libchaber at the Rockefeller University following the completion of his PhD, and in 2005, moved to the University of Minnesota, where he currently works. We spoke with Vincent about his thoughts on the future of synthetic biology, existing bottlenecks and his own work adapting TX-TL for synthetic biology applications.

What drew you to your current work?
I discovered TX-TL during my postdoc. At the time, this technology was not really used for synthetic biology. My lab, like a few other research groups, developed a novel TX-TL specifically engineered for quantitative biology and synthetic biology.

My current work focuses on cell-free transcription-translation systems (TX-TL). We use TX-TL as a quantitative experimental platform to construct and characterise biochemical systems through the execution of synthetic gene circuits.

Where do you see the field heading?
To be able to apply synthetic biology outside of the laboratory. Some examples already exist, but there are some areas that need to be developed, such as biomedical applications. It is what researchers are starting to do, for example, with portable medical diagnostics. There is an important safety component to this.

What do we know now that we didn’t 5 years ago?
In my research area, it was not clear five years ago how far and fast we could go in adapting TX-TL for synthetic biology applications. With other research groups, we have shown that TX-TL has a lot of potential for synthetic biology. This rapidly growing research area has become credible. TX-TL will have its contributions to synthetic biology in the next decade.

What barriers still exist to development?
The lack of fundamental principles governing the logic of genetic information. Synthetic biology is primarily an engineering approach, we can ask whether synthetic biology is going to play a major role in discovering general principles in genetic information, if these principles exist.

Do you follow many other groups within the field?
I am amazed of what we can do with genetic information but there is so much going on in synthetic biology that, frankly, I cannot follow everything.

Vincent Noireaux

Vincent Noireaux is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, where he is using cell-free expression to construct and study complex biochemical systems in vitro.

Take a look at more of our synthetic biology posts.

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