Advances in synthetic biology have the potential to address issues facing society and the earth. With the increased ease and globalization of synthetic biology, the potential accidental or deliberate misuse has increased. In addition, the evolution and spread of new infectious agents such as viruses and other pathogens has increased with population growth and movement as well as with environmental changes.

Biological threats such as viruses and other pathogens are organized by genetic relatedness in lists that fail to reflect biological functions. Such lists do not account for unexpected rise of a new pathogen. Ideally, we would like to be able to rapidly characterize new pathogens and implement immediate responses. This is one of the grand challenges for synthetic biology.

We are taking a bioinformatics and functional approach to this problem. Our focus is on the mechanism by which viruses compromise the immune system in the course of the antiviral response systems. We are using a combination of synthetic biology and high throughput screening to tackle this challenging problem.