American Society for Microbiology (ASM) – Microbes & Climate change

April 19, 2022

This report is based on the discussion of experts who came together via the American Academy of Microbiology. This meeting outlined recommendations from academic, policy, and market experts about how to address climate change by using the power of microbes.

The power of tardigrades

March 25, 2022

A great article by Derek Lowe (In the Pipeline blog) recognizing our lab’s work on the protective functions of intracellular condensates. It specifically focuses on our recent 2022 paper from Veling, et al.: Natural and Designed Proteins Inspired by Extremotolerant Organisms Can Form Condensates and Attenuate Apoptosis in Human Cells

Check it out!

BIOS asks Pam Silver 10 questions about being an academic entrepreneur

March 17, 2022

Pam Silver is a world-renowned academic scientist with diverse research interests. She has managed to successfully translate many of her scientific achievements into entrepreneurship, product commercialization, and collaborations with companies whose goals align with hers. Take a look at this interview for insights into how Pam navigates the intersection of academia and industry.

Revisiting federal policies on modifying dangerous pathogens

March 1, 2022

The White House and the NIH recently asked the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to review policies regarding research that could potentially lead to a pandemic. This is to ensure that federally funded studies of viruses and other microbes that could cause a pandemic are done safely, and to deny funding for experiments considered too risky. A particular concern is gain-of-function (GOF) experiments and where these fall under the NIH definition of enhanced potential pandemic pathogens (ePPPs). Pamela Silver serves as a member of the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity.

Kula Bio is backed by $50 million to advance its production of an environmentally friendly nitrogen fertilizer

January 27, 2022

Kula Bio was founded based on research done at Harvard University. The company’s main product – Kula-N – uses bacteria to remove nitrogen from the air and deposit it in soil, as opposed to damaging soil and nearby water supplies with traditional synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Pamela Silver is a founder and member of the SAB.

64X Bio raises $55M to advance gene therapy platform

January 19, 2022

Congratulations to 64X Bio! Read more about this transformative cell line engineering technology at the link above. Pamela Silver and Jeffrey Way are co-founders.

Pancreatitis project is highlighted by the Wyss Institute

January, 2022

The Silver Lab’s pancreatitis project was recently acknowledged in the Wyss Institute’s Therapeutic Catalyst, a business development initiative that supports the commercialization of therapeutics and technologies. Our project aims to develop engineered fusion protein drugs to treat pancreatitis.

Check out our very own Kailyn Doiron & the Fujifilm Fellowship for translational research at HMS

January 4, 2022, Kailyn Doiron

Fujifilm and HMS continue to collaborate toward moving therapeutic development from bench-to-bedside.

Kailyn is a 3rd year student in the Systems, Synthetic, and Quantitative Biology PhD program. She is a 2021 recipient of this prestigious award. Her focus is on applying synthetic biology approaches to the development of protein therapeutics that can treat chronic and inflammatory pain.

Lab Director Dr. Devin Burrill on building a multidisciplinary scientific community within the Silver Lab

December 1, 2021, Devin Burrill

This article is part of the Humans of the Wyss (HOW) series, which features Wyss Institute members to discuss their work, collaborations with the Wyss and other institutions and companies, and what influences them in how they navigate their scientific careers.

Dr. Burrill has a PhD from Harvard Medical School, a Post-doc from the Wyss/BU/MIT, and has industry and consulting experience. She is now back at Harvard to help lead the Silver Lab. Take a look!

eureKARE successfully hosts inaugural SynBio Day and eureKAWARDS

November 10, 2021, eureKARE

eureKARE congratulates Prof. Roy Bar-Ziv of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel as the winner of the first-ever eureKAWARDS. Roy Bar-Ziv’s submission combines physics with biology and biochip artificial cells technology. It is a disruptive approach to diagnostics and therapeutics. Winners are eligible to receive free access to premium services provided by the eureKASYNBIO startup studio team and its network of validated partners for one year, along with support from eureKARE’s team, academic and industrial professionals in SynBio.

An awesome opportunity for anyone interested in SynBio!

Webinar on the Power of Synthetic Biology

October 20, 2021

A discussion between members of academia and industry and how the two came together to push SynBio forward during the early days and in the present. This relationship continues to prove that the field’s work is revolutionary and impactful world-wide through valuable collaborations.

Students & VCs launch equity-free Nucleate program to support future biotech leaders

September 28, 2021

More info about Nucleate:

Nucleate is a program that aims to help academic researchers navigate the process of developing start-ups. The goal is to make sure that valuable academic ideas and potential biotech leaders are not lost or abandoned along the way simply because the process is difficult and largely not explained to students during academic training.

Pamela Silver is an advisor for Nucleate, as part of a distinguished team of scientific and business development experts.

Nucleate launches nationwide to empower the next generation of biotech leaders

September 28, 2021

Nucleate is a non-profit organization committed to supporting the company development interests of PhD and MBA students focused on commercializing their work/ideas.

Nucleate is now accepting applications for its equity-free, 6 month Activator program. Participants are connected with potential co-founders, trained, and equipped with networks, funding, legal support, and access to lab equipment and reagents. The Activator program does not take any equity or other fees for participation.

Pamela Silver is an advisor for Nucleate, as part of a distinguished team of scientific and business development experts.

If interested, take a look here:

eureKARE launches inaugural eureKAWARDS to support European synthetic biology innovation

July 28, 2021, eureKARE

An opportunity to pitch your most innovative, ambitious synbio ideas. Winning projects will be considered for startup investments and scientific support.

(Pamela Silver is a member of eureKARE’s scientific advisory board)

10 Tips to Transform Your Career and Science Culture

July 8, 2021, Christina Agapakis

Pioneering synthetic biologist Pamela Silver drops some wisdom.

(an interview with Pamela Silver)

Awards & Recognitions: July 2021

July 1, 2021, Bobbie Collins

Two HMS researchers have received Burroughs Wellcome Fund 2021 Career Awards at the Scientific Interface (CASI), which provides early career support that allows investigators to develop innovative and independent research programs.

Rebecca Sherbo, visiting Harvard postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and chemical biology at HMS and the Wyss Institute, for the project “Sustainable Food Out of Thin Air.”

2021 Career Awards At The Scientific Interface Recipients Announced

June 29, 2021, BWFUND

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2021 Career Awards at the Scientific Interface (CASI). This award is a postdoc-faculty bridging award for researchers conducting biological research through interdisciplinary approaches.

(Rebecca Sherbo named recipient)

eureKARE Establishes Scientific Advisory Board of World Leading Experts from Microbiome and Synthetic Biology Research

June 22, 2021, eureKARE

eureKARE (“the Company”), a pioneering new company focused on financing and building next generation biotechnology companies in the disruptive fields of the microbiome and synthetic biology, today announces the establishment of its scientific advisory board (SAB) comprising world-renowned experts across the fields of microbiology, biotechnology, biology, and synthetic biology.

(including Pamela Silver)

Seize the game-changing potential of mRNA vaccines

June 17, 2021, Jamie Bay Nishi & Stacey Knobler

During the early months of the historic rollout of vaccines to fight COVID-19, the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Influenzer Initiative asked experts and innovators specifically to reflect on the past, present, and game-changing future of mRNA vaccine protection against a range of viral threats, including influenza.

(Pamela Silver is interviewed)

The Wave: Supporting gender minorities in bio

May 21, 2021, Petri

A community to spotlight and support women and underrepresented genders founding companies in bio, supported by Petri.

(Pamela Silver speaks on panel)

U.S. Department of Energy Invests $35 Million to Dramatically Reduce Carbon Footprint of Biofuel Production

May 14, 2021, ARPA-E

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $35 million in funding that will help slash carbon emissions and scale up the volume and efficiency of renewable biofuel.

(Circe project at Wyss Institute and Harvard is an awardee)

The Power Duo Looking at the Future of Sustainability

April 22, 2021, Wyss Business Insider

The unique team behind Circe is using their proprietary microbes to consume greenhouse gases to sustainably produce high impact food ingredients.

(Shannon Nangle, Marika Ziesack, and project Circe are featured)

Inspiration and Sustainability

April 22, 2021, Wyss Business Insider

(Pam Silver is featured)

Women helping women make history at the Wyss

March 25, 2021, Lindsay Brownell

The Wyss Institute commemorates Women’s History Month by celebrating the mentors and role models who are developing the next generation of world-changing scientists.

(Pamela Silver, Kasia Kready, and Kailyn Doiron featured)

SARS-CoV-2 proteins are potent suppressors of innate immunity

March 5, 2021, Liji Thomas, MD

Most pathogenic viruses, such as the causative agent of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), affect normal human biology to co-opt cellular metabolism and replicate successfully. One key pathway is the suppression of innate host immunity.

(Features preprint by Olson et al. on bioRxiv)

Accelerating the Regenerative Revolution: The Nature Conservancy invests in agri-tech firms to speed progress against ambitious soil health goals

March 8, 2021, Ciaran Clayton & Tom Jennings

By establishing portfolio of emerging companies targeting soil health, TNC aims to prime the pump for sustainable innovation across investment sectors.

(Kula Bio is featured; Pamela Silver on SAB)

Pillar Founder Playlist

March 2, 2021

Professor Silver answers questions about startups from an academic perspective.

(Playlist of Q&A session with Pam Silver)

In Focus: Climate Crisis

March 1, 2021

Climate change is a global threat that requires an urgent response. The Harvard community is taking a multi-faceted approach to addressing and reversing the effects of this crisis.

(Shannon Nangle’s and Marika Ziesack’s Circe project featured: Biodegradable products from greenhouse gases)

Introducing the Wyss Lumineers Class of 2020

February 24, 2021, Lindsay Brownell

Inaugural class includes entrepreneurs taking on real-world challenges from aging to air pollution.

(Pamela Silver faculty advisor for 64x Bio)

Seeded amid the many surprises of COVID times, some unexpected positives

February 18, 2021, Liz Mineo

Various innovations, rise of women leaders, greater collaboration between scientists, clinicians, to name few.

(Pamela Silver featured)

Joe Lieberman, Tom Ridge: How America can end threat of future pandemics by 2030

January 26, 2021, Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge

Through an Apollo Program for Biodefense, we can make invisible biological enemies visible and take pandemic threats off the table by 2030.

(Pamela Silver was an interviewed expert; see report)

What’s Kool about Kula Bio? Transforming the economics and sustainability of soil, for starters

December 21, 2020, Jim Lane

(scientific advisory board member Pamela Silver mentioned)

64x Bio Emerges from Stealth to Drive an Evolution in Cell and Gene Therapy Manufacturing

November 16, 2020, Business Wire

“64x Bio announced today that they are emerging from stealth and are describing for the first time their proprietary VectorSelectTM platform and vision for the company. The company is a spinout of Harvard’s Wyss Institute and has developed breakthrough cellular screening technologies to dramatically increase the efficiency of viral vector production. These fundamental advances enable the delivery of lifesaving cell and gene therapies to patients by reducing the cost and complexity of manufacturing, which is a critical bottleneck in this multibillion dollar market.”

(co-founders Pamela Silver and Jeffrey Way mentioned)

Heat-Protecting Gene in Corals & Human Cells Get an Upgrade…from Tardigrades

November 13, 2020, Niko McCarty

This Week in Synthetic Biology (Issue #15)

(featuring collaborative work co-authored by Mike Veling, Roger Chang, and Pamela Silver)

The Dish: A celebration of bio + engineering

September 16, 2020, Petri

The Dish is Petri’s bi-annual Demo Day and summit. At the event, they showcase their founders and bring thought leaders together to celebrate innovation in bio + engineering. Fall 2020 recordings available.

(Pamela Silver spoke in the NexGen Food & Agriculture session)

A New Approach To A Deadly Breast Cancer Offers Hope To The Black Women It Affects Most

September 17, 2020, John Cumbers

A novel therapeutic approach for triple-negative breast cancer.

(an interview with alumna Karmella Haynes)

How Real Is Genetic Engineering in Sci-Fi?

August 26, 2020, Courtney Linder

Jurassic Park and Blade Runner are among the many movies about manipulating DNA. Are they closer to science or fiction?

(Jeffrey Way and Pamela Silver are quoted)

Marika Ziesack on Circe

August 12, 2020

(an interview with Marika Ziesack)

Joining Forces

August 25, 2020

Harvard University, AbbVie form research alliance to address emergent viral diseases

(Pamela Silver is mentioned)

$30M commitment supports development of therapies for viral infections

August 25, 2020, Harvard Office of Technology Development

AbbVie and Medical School collaboration to focus on coronaviruses, hemorrhagic fever

(Pamela Silver is mentioned)

How Do We Know If a Virus Is Bioengineered?

August 5, 2020, Sarah Scoles

Detecting bioengineering is a fraught task for any organism.

(Elizabeth Libby is quoted)

The Cell Conductor

June 23, 2020, Jill Neimark

Karmella Haynes is on a mission to revolutionize cancer treatment.

(alumna Karmella Haynes is featured and Pam Silver quoted)

After the Madness—Pandemic Silver Linings in Bioscience

June 2020, David Ewing Duncan

Will the frenzied rush to understand and treat SARS-CoV-2 bring longer lasting benefit to the world of scientific research and medicine?

(Pamela Silver is quoted)

The Fun GCAT Program and Harvard University are exploring how SARS-CoV-2 evades and disrupts the human immune system

February 2020,

Researchers at Harvard University led by Professor Pamela Silver recently developed an experimental pipeline for the evaluation of viral genes that disrupt the human immune response as part of IARPA’s Functional Genomic and Computational Assessment of Threats program.

(work of Timothy Chang, Erika Olson, Jeffrey Way, and Pamela Silver highlighted)

Conversations with Aanika E9: Dr. Pamela Silver

June 16, 2020

Pamela is building synthetic cells that act as sensors, memory devices, bio-computers, producers of high value commodities and energy from the sun, and novel subsystems such as proteins with designed properties for therapeutic use. Among her most recent innovations are bacteria that can sense and respond to gut inflammation and the Bionic Leaf, which couples sunlight capture to bioproduction at an efficiency exceeding plants. Understanding how to program cells in a rational way will have value in stem cell design, drug therapy and the environment.

(an interview with Pamela Silver)

The Origin of Things

June 4, 2020, Kevin Jiang

DNA-barcoded microbial spores can trace origin of objects, agricultural products

(featuring article co-authored by Michael Melfi, Lorena Lyon, and Pamela Silver)

Wiring the Past & Future: A Transition for Engineering Biology

May 15, 2020

The iGEM 2020 opening weekend festival featured keynotes and a panel discussion from leading scientists in synthetic biology, including Pamela Silver, Tom Knight, and Drew Endy.

(keynote and panel discussion featuring Pamela Silver)

The Next Decade in Science

January 13, 2020, Lindsay Brownell

Wyss Institute faculty predict the biggest scientific advances of the 2020s.

(Pamela Silver is quoted)

Circe: Biodegradable plastic without the plants

April 22, 2020, Lindsay Brownell

Engineered microbes can produce biodegradable plastics at lower cost and environmental impact than plant-based plastics.

(Shannon Nangle and Marika Ziesack are featured)

Accelerating the development of model systems for marine microbial ecology through collaboration

April 6, 2020

113 Moore Foundation-supported co-authors from 53 institutions across 14 countries contributed to the Nature Methods article. All protocols in the article are openly available on

Therapeutic microbes to tackle disease

January 29, 2020, Claire Ainsworth

Modified bacteria and carefully formulated microbial communities could form the basis of new living treatments.

(Pam Silver mentioned)

Biosecurity Innovation and Risk Reduction: A Global Framework for Accessible, Safe and Secure DNA Synthesis

January 2020

(Pam Silver is a member of the Working Group on Preventing Illicit Gene Synthesis)

Learning to Speak Genome

January 16, 2020, Michael Eisenstein

To become fluent in life’s molecular language, take immersion programs in single-cell transcriptomics, CRISPR technology, and synthetic biology

(Pamela Silver quoted)

Humans of the Wyss: Shannon Nangle on Microbes and Mars

December 19, 2019

(an interview with Shannon Nangle)

Engineering Life – Synthetic biology and the frontiers of technology

January-February, 2020, Jonathan Shaw

(Pamela Silver featured)

4 Mad Scientists Using Superplants to Solve Climate Change

October 16, 2019, Nina Maria Tremblay

(Pamela Silver mentioned)

Glowing with the flow

November 5, 2019, Adam Zewe

Students engineer blood vessel receptors to signal life-threatening conditions.

(iGEM team mentored by Tim Chang)

What is a tardigrade?

October 14, 2019, Jeremy Deaton

Tiny animals with an outsized ability to survive in harsh environments, tardigrades are widely used in scientific research.

(Roger Larken Chang is quoted)

Scientists Develop Tool To Show How Our Microbiome Changes Over Time

October 12, 2019, Gretchen Lidicker

(Pamela Silver quoted)

Science Behind-the-Scenes: Engineering Microbial Consortia with Dr. Marika Ziesack

October 11, 2019, Niko McCarty

(interview with Marika Ziesack)

Oscillating Genetic Circuit: A Reliable Clock for Your Microbiome

October 11, 2019, Wyss Institute

(Pamela Silver and David Riglar are quoted)

Ending ‘dead zones’ – How a biofriendly fertilizer could offer a greener way to grow plants

September 24, 2019, Caitlin McDermott-Murphy

(Pamela Silver is mentioned)

New lab planned in the Seaport for fledgling biotech companies

September 13, 2019, Jonathan Saltzman

(Pamela Silver is mentioned)

How Biology Inspires Future Technology

August 26, 2019, Wendy Moonan

(Pamela Silver is mentioned)

Helping bacteria be better friends

August 15, 2019, Lindsay Brownell

(Marika Ziesack and Pamela Silver quoted)

Just Solid or Liquid Enough

August 8, 2019, Lara Szewczak

(Geissen et al. featured)

Synthetic DNA from Extraterrestrial Intelligence to Future Biomolecules

July 3, 2019, The Biomedical Scientist

Following the creation of artificial E. coli, we look at the history of those pushing the boundaries in the field of synthetic biology (Finn Stirling quoted)

Wyss Institute Faculty Curate “Selects” Exhibition at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

July 9, 2019, Lindsay Brownell

The 18th installation of the acclaimed series explores Biofuturism through art and design (Pamela Silver mentioned)

Take Two E. coli and Call Me in the Morning

June 28, 2019, Lindsay Brownell

Synthetic bacterial memory circuits enable microbial diagnostics for sensing biomolecules in the gut (Pamela Silver, David Riglar, and Alexander Naydich are quoted)

Engineering Biology: A Research Roadmap for the Next-Generation Bioeconomy

June 21, 2019, Engineering Biology Research Consortium

Just a phage? How bacteria’s predators can shape the gut microbiome

June 6, 2019, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Study finds that bacteriophages can have a cascade of effects on the microbiome and change metabolite levels, with implications for therapeutic use

Saving the Planet with Robots, Microbes, and Nanotechnology

June 5, 2019, Lindsay Brownell

From the Redwood Forest, to the gulf stream waters – Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Wyss Institute is creating a more sustainable future (Pamela Silver is quoted)

Conagen announces formation of Scientific Advisory Board

May 30, 2019, Conagen Inc.

Board includes five world-leading scientists in the fields of Synthetic Biology and Applied Molecular Biology (including Pamela Silver)

Beyond Cold Storage

May 23, 2019, Adam Bluestein

A metabolic slowdown would press pause on the body until surgeons can repair damage. How close is it to becoming a reality? (Roger Larken Chang is quoted)

Scientists Created Bacteria With a Synthetic Genome. Is This Artificial Life?

May 15, 2019, Carl Zimmer

In a milestone for synthetic biology, colonies of E. coli thrive with DNA constructed from scratch by humans, not nature. (Finn Stirling and James Kuo are quoted)

Innovation Celebration: HMS community celebrates innovation and collaboration

April 30, 2019, Kevin Jiang

Katherine Redfield, a Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology MD student in the lab of Pamela Silver, the Elliott T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at HMS, spoke about “Engineering A Novel Approach to Pancreatitis.”

Physical and Biological Sciences Division honors three prominent alumni

April 19, 2019, Tim Stephens

PBSci Distinguished Alumni Awards recognize contributions to society by graduate and undergraduate alums, honors Pamela Silver

DARPA Thinks Tardigrades Could Help Scientists ‘Freeze’ Injured Soldiers in Time

April 1, 2019, Hannah Osborne

The end goal of Biostasis is to add a new class of tools to the human health toolbox that can protect biological systems from collapse after damage. Medical professionals already have lots of ways to help the body cope with insult and aid in the elimination of infectious organisms, but we do not currently have any approaches that work by slowing down the types of cascading molecular events that ultimately lead to the collapse of the system.

2019 Soma Weiss Day

March 14, 2019, M.R.F. Buckley

Poster Winner Katherine Redfield Chan Takes Judah Folkman Prize for Clinical/Translational Science Research

“Fusion protein therapeutic for pancreatitis”

Women Making History at the Wyss Institute

March 8, 2019

On International Women’s Day, meet some of the extraordinary women at the Wyss Institute who are changing the world.

A Gulp Of Genetically Modified Bacteria Might Someday Treat A Range Of Illnesses

March 8, 2019, Rob Stein

“It’s a new world of being able to use synthetic biology to program microbes to treat diseases, which I believe is the future,” says Pamela Silver.

Searching Tardigrades for Lifesaving Secrets

February 15, 2019, Steph Yin

Researchers are drawing inspiration from the proteins that they think let hearty water bears cheat time by decelerating their biology.

The Master of Survival

January 25, 2019, Ekaterina Pesheva

Could an extremophile hold the secret to redefining the treatment of devastating injuries? Proteins produced by the tardigrade are suspected of playing a role in the organism’s resilience, ultimately providing the basis for human therapies that halt tissue damage and prevent cell death.

Spurring Innovation

November 14, 2018, M.R.F. Buckley

$14M in dean’s grants awarded to boost scientific collaborations

Besting Nature
December 12, 2018, Denis Bedoya

Bacteria Harbor Geometric “Organelles”

Dec 1, 2018, Amber Dance

Microbes, traditionally thought to lack organelles, get a metabolic boost from geometric compartments that act as cauldrons for chemical reactions. Bioengineers are eager to harness the compartments for their own purposes.


Congrats to Cameron and Janice  – Silver Lab alumni

Biology at the Brink – The Bionic Leaf and Advanced Biological Experimentation That Could Help Solve Monumental Environmental and Sustainability Problems

October 15, 2018, Pamela Silver

Silver discusses her diverse work that tackles health-related issues, sustainability issues, climate change, and beyond, solutions to improve the way we live and interact with our world.

Unexpected Findings Cause Scientists to Rethink Probiotics

September 2, 2018, Christopher Bergland

In recent months, surprising evidence has emerged that commercially available probiotics containing “good bacteria for your gut microbiome” may not be the panacea most of us have come to believe.

A telephone for your microbiome

August 31, 2018, Lindsay Brownell

With more than 1,000 species of bacteria identified in the human gut, understanding this incredibly diverse biological ecosystem can impact health and disease. As they do, scientists may be setting the stage for creating synthetic microbiomes that can record information about the state of the gut in real time, or report the presence of disease.

The top 10 startups from Y Combinator’s Demo Day S18 Day 2

August 23, 2018, Anna Escher, Connie Loizos, Lucas Matney, Jonathan Shieber, Anthony Ha

Fifty-nine startups took the stage at Y Combinator’s Demo Day 2, and among the highlights were a company that helps developers manage in-app subscriptions; a service that lets you create animojis from real photos; and a surplus medical equipment-reselling platform. Oh… and there was also a company that’s developed an entirely new kind of life form using e coli bacteria. So yeah, that’s happening.

Besting Nature

July 24, 2018, Scientific American Custom Media

After slipping a thumb-size silicon microprocessor into a small beaker filled with water, Daniel Nocera turns on a light. Instantly, bubbles stream from the chip.

This Company Aims to Deliver DNA on Demand With Its Biological Fax Machine

July 12, 2018, Laine Higgins

When the human genome sequence was first mapped in 2001, the thought of using such genetic code to print vaccines on a lab bench was far from reality.

Report For Defense Department Ranks Top Threats From ‘Synthetic Biology’

June 19, 2018, Nell Greenfieldboyce

New genetic tools are making it easier and cheaper to engineer viruses and bacteria, and a report commissioned by the Department of Defense has now ranked the top threats posed by the rapidly advancing field of “synthetic biology.”

Celebrating iGEM + Ginkgo history

Barry Canton

We are so thrilled to be announcing a new partnership with iGEM (the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition). As sponsors, we’ll be supporting iGEM’s future growth and the growth of the community of synthetic biologists that they have built.

Karmella Haynes, PH.D. – Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering @ Arizona State University

June 1, 2018

Karmella Haynes, Ph.D. is making waves in biological engineering by using a cutting-edge research approach called synthetic biology to break down barriers to understanding how human chromosomes work. She is currently a Principle Investigator (PI) who is leading her own research team at a tissue culture and DNA engineering laboratory that she launched at Arizona State University in 2011.

GP-write has big goals for synthetic genomes

May 15, 2018, Aaron Dy

We continue to improve our ability to read, write, and edit DNA on larger and larger scales. GP-write wants to gather and coordinate the global enthusiasm around large-scale genome engineering to bring about some major advancements in several areas. Overall, they have the goal to reduce of cost of building and testing large genomes by over 1,000-fold within ten years. This major reduction in cost would require large improvements in methods and technology, but large-scale projects like the synthesis of a human genome may be what’s needed to push the field to that point.

Rewiring bacteria for large scale biofuel and bioplastic production

March 30, 2018, Benjamin Boettner

Organisms that died many millions of years ago are the source of today’s natural petroleum resources. As phytoplankton and zooplankton, they sank to the bottom of ancient oceans and formed sediments under ground, and were exposed to extreme heat and pressure. This process turned the molecules that built all of their outer and inner membranes, known as fatty acids, into the main hydrocarbon component of petroleum.

10 Inspiring Female Pioneers From PSFK’s PurpleList

March 8, 2018, PSFK

“Proud of former lab member Christina Agapakis who is doing such original work.”

Annihilation: Horizontal Gene Transfer Runs Amok

March 6, 2018, Pamela Silver and Jeffrey Way

A mysterious meteor has struck at the base of a lighthouse creating a gauzy, slowly expanding field–the ‘Shimmer.’ Thus begins Alex Garland’s film ANNIHILATION. The U.S. Government has sent in teams of armed soldiers to investigate the Shimmer, and only one very damaged soldier has returned. While the previous failed teams have been all male, this time an all-female group of military badasses–most of whom also have advanced degrees in biology or physics–enters the Shimmer.

Harvard Researchers Pioneer Photosynthetic Bionic Leaf

February 16, 2018, Amy L. Jia and Sanjana L. Narayanan

Researchers in the Chemistry department and at Harvard Medical School are exploring new applications for a “bionic leaf” that can generate liquid fuel and other valuable resources using only sunlight, air, and water.

Expanding the reach of the bionic leaf

January 31, 2018, Alvin Powell

With eye on population growth, postdoc teams with Silver, Nocera on project to aid agriculture in developing world. As the global population rises toward 10 billion, the planet is headed for a food shortage, with some estimates saying supply will have to double by 2050 to meet demand.

Engineered bacteria to detect gut inflammation

January 29, 2018, Aaron DY

I wrote about engineered probiotics at the beginning of 2017, and the field continued throughout 2017 with more papers and startup news using engineered bacteria in the gut. For instance, one paper used engineered probiotics to attack Pseudomonas aeruginosa gut infection and another used engineered probiotics to treat phenylketonuria (PKU is genetic disorder that prevents breakdown of the amino phenylalanine). I was particularly interested in a pair of papers – one from Pam Silver’s lab at Harvard and one from Jeff Tabor’s lab at Rice University – described new sensors in bacteria so that they can detect inflammation in the mammalian gut. This type of work shows how probiotic-based diagnostics can provide measurements from directly inside your gut without invasive procedures.

Karyopharm Announces Agreement for Biogen to Acquire KPT-350 for the Treatment of Neurological and Neurodegenerative Conditions

January 25, 2018, Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc.

We are excited to see the success of KPTI at bringing nuclear transport inhibitors to the clinic.

Technology to watch in 2018

January 24, 2018, Kendall Powell

For all the excitement surrounding the gene-editing tool CRISPR, it is not that efficient or precise. It’s hard to make many changes at once. My lab has set the record so far — making 62 modifications to the genome of a single cell — but we have compelling applications that need a greater number of simultaneous changes. Now, however, we have the technologies required to make this feasible.

Beyond the Lab: Pam Silver, Ph.D.

December 10, 2017, Aditi Risbud

“Pam Silver, Ph.D., is the Elliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. As the first director of the Harvard University graduate program in systems biology, Silver and her team seek to enhance understanding of natural biological design, and to develop tools and concepts for designing cells, tissues and organisms.”

2 World Changing Advances: Bionic Leaves And Harvesting Water From Thin Air

November 30, 2017, Chunk Mui

“If you’re looking for a healthy dose of optimism, make sure to pick up the December issue of Scientific American. Tucked into the venerable magazine’s pages is a special report on the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2017.”

There’s a Bacteria For That

November 21, 2017, Kira Peikoff, Future Frontiers

“There’s an app for that.” Get ready for a cutting-edge twist on this common phrase. In the life sciences, researchers in the field of synthetic biology are engineering microbes to execute specific tasks, like diagnosing gut inflammation, purifying dirty water, and cleaning up oil spills. Here are five academic and commercial projects underway now that will make you want to add the term “designer bacteria” to your vocab.”

Scientists develop reliable kill switches — in case bioengineered microbes go rogue

November 16, 2017, Wyss Institute News

“Scientists at Harvard have developed a pair of new kill switches that can be used to thwart bioengineered microbes that go rogue. Researchers have been testing the use of bioengineered microbes for a variety of purposes, from the diagnosis of disease in the human body to the neutering of mosquitoes.”

Wyss researcher awarded prestigious Leopoldina Prize

September 7, 2017, Wyss Institute News

Tobias Giessen, Ph.D., a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Wyss Institute and Harvard Medical School working in Pam Silver’s lab, has been awarded the Leopoldina Prize for Young Scientists by the German National Academy of Sciences. The award will be presented during the ceremony of the annual assembly of the German National Academy of Sciences on Friday, September 22, 2017 in Halle (Saale), Germany.”

Assumptions of how antibiotics work may be incorrect

 September 6, 2017,  Lindsay Brownell, Wyss Institute Communications

“Bacterial infections are the No. 1 cause of death in hospital patients in the U.S., and antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise, causing tens of thousands of deaths every year. Understanding exactly how antibiotics work, or don’t, is crucial for developing alternative treatment strategies, both to target new “superbugs” and to make existing drugs more effective against their targets.” 

Scientists build DNA from scratch to alter life’s blueprint

July 26, 2017, Mary Altaffer/AP, CBS News

“At Jef Boeke’s lab, you can whiff an odor that seems out of place, as if they were baking bread here.

But he and his colleagues are cooking up something else altogether: yeast that works with chunks of man-made DNA.”

Engineered Bacteria Report on Gut Health

July 21, 2017, Mary Bates, Bioengineering Today

“The gut has a lot to tell us about our health. However, it is difficult to access this information. As an alternative to invasive and costly procedures like colonoscopies, researchers are looking at using live, engineered bacteria to diagnose and treat diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diabetes and more.”

‘Bionic Leaf’ Could One Day Help Reduce CO2 In The Atmosphere

July 19, 2017, Fred Thys, WBUR News

“Mars’ atmosphere is composed mainly of carbon dioxide. That’s potential food for the bacteria Nangle works with. Those bacteria can turn carbon dioxide into a variety of useful compounds, including a kind of plastic that could be used to build things astronauts would need on Mars.”

Artificial Leaf Turns Carbon Dioxide Into Liquid Fuel

June 26, 2017, Javier Garcia Martinez, Scientific American

The notion of an artificial leaf makes so much sense. Leaves, of course, harness energy from the sun to turn carbon dioxide into the carbohydrates that power a plant’s cellular activities. For decades, scientists have been working to devise a process similar to photosynthesis to generate a fuel that could be stored for later. This could solve a major challenge of solar and wind power—providing a way to stow the energy when the sun is not shining and the air is still.

These are the top 10 emerging technologies of 2017

June 26, 2017, Oliver Cann, World Economic Forum

A diverse range of breakthrough technologies, including “artificial leaves” that turn CO2 into fuel, and a technique that harvests water from air, could soon be playing a role in tackling the world’s most pressing challenges, according to a list published today by the World Economic Forum.

Bacteria turns poop blue when you’re sick

June 10, 2017, Bob McDonald, CBC Radio

Bacteria can be engineered to perform various tasks. For example bacteria has been engineered to make valuable proteins for medical use, and to make enzymes that are used to help degrade toxic chemicals when spills occur. But a new study by Dr. David Riglar from the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School in Boston has engineered bacteria in the gut of mice for diagnostic purposes.

Remembrance of things past – bacterial memory of gut inflammation

May 29, 2017, Eriona Hysolli

Our approach is to use the bacteria’s sensing ability to monitor the environment in unhealthy tissue or organs. By adding gene circuits that retain memory, we envision giving humans probiotics that record disease progression by a simple and non-invasive fecal test,” said Riglar. Silver’s team plans to extend this work to sensing inflammation in the human gut and also to develop new sensors detecting signs of a variety of other conditions.

There was just no way I was going to do what everyone else did

16 May 2017, Harvard Gazette

In 1960s Silicon Valley Pamela Silver came of age part math nerd, part rebel, absorbing the spirit of both time and place. Think space race. Think Grateful Dead.

She set out on her scientific career without a plan, propelled by an aptitude for math, an interest in science, and a love of the sometimes frenzied life of the laboratory. That love fueled groundbreaking work on how proteins make their way from the cytoplasm of a cell into the nucleus, a process called nuclear localization. Decades and many discoveries later, the same passion helped establish her as a leader in the fledgling field of synthetic biology.

Silver was recently named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the Elliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology.

Now That We Can Read Genomes, Can We Write Them?

May 10, The Atlantic, Ed Yong

“I want to see a time in the not-too-distant future when, in elementary schools, it’ll be routine to think: I want to do some DNA synthesis as a project,” said Pamela Silver from Harvard Medical School.


Harvard faculty elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 12, 2017, Harvard Gazette

Those elected from Harvard include Alan M. Garber, provost of Harvard University and the Mallinckrodt Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School; John A. Quelch, Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration; Jonathan L. Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law; David Charbonneau, professor of astronomy; Pamela A. Silver, Elliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS); Hopi E. Hoekstra, Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and curator of mammals in the Museum of Comparative Zoology; Myles A. Brown, professor of medicine at HMS; Marc J. Melitz, David A. Wells Professor of Political Economy; Torben Iversen, Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy; Janet Gyatso, Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies; Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science; David Damrosch, Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Literature; Alina Payne, Alexander P. Misheff Professor of History of Art and Architecture. Gerald L. Chan, S.M. ’75, S.D. ’79, and his brother Ronnie C. Chan, sons of the late T.H. Chan and benefactors to the Harvard School of Public Health, were also named fellows.

The bionic leaf seems poised to lead a fertilizer revolution

5 April 2017, Popular Science

A bionic leaf created by Harvard professors Daniel Nocera and Pamela Silver keeps proving itself to be as cool as—and maybe even cooler than—its natural counterpart.

7 projects win funding for climate change solutions

6 March 2017, Harvard Gazette

The bionic leaf, a proof-of-concept platform pioneered by Harvard scientists, makes possible a cheap, nontoxic, portable device to create value-added products such as bioplastics for accelerating widespread adoption of solar and other renewable technologies, while simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions. This project will support work toward constructing a deployable bionic leaf that could provide a blueprint for bringing this technology to scale.

Synthetic biology to help colonize Mars

1 March 2017, PLoS blogs

Shannon Nangle finished her PhD ready to take on a new challenge and set her sights on research to help make Mars colonization possible. But she isn’t pursuing research on rocket fuels or space suits. She’s using synthetic biology to improve biomanufacturing of needed resources using simple inputs like sunlight, water, and CO2.


Compartmentalized life

6 March 2017, Wyss Institute

“Within their new hosts, these encapsulin systems could form capsids with very defined sizes on the nanoscale. These artificially expressed systems were able to protect the cells from high doses of different stressors that are also produced as byproducts of their normal metabolism. Some systems were also able to mineralize and store otherwise toxic iron, while still others may be involved in the so-called anammox process, which generates free dinitrogen from ammonium and nitrite with the rocket fuel hydrazine being an intermediate,” said Giessen, who is working with Silver at the Wyss Institute and HMS as a Postdoctoral Fellow.

India Headed For A Green Energy Revolution: Harvard Scientist

22 Jan 2017, NDTV

Harvard chemist and energy innovator Daniel G. Nocera is a man on a “renewable” mission. The inventor of the artificial leaf and co-creator of its bionic version plans to launch a pilot of the advanced technology in India with the assertion that a “renewable energy revolution will take place” in the country.

Featured Scientist: Pamela Silver

16 Dec 2016, Aldo Leopold Nature Center

Although a great deal of Silver’s work is with novel therapies for humans and livestock, she can’t ignore concerns about our planet’s need to adapt to bionic_leafincreasing amounts of carbon in the atmosphere. Using her knowledge in synthetic biology, Silver partnered with Daniel Nocera, a leading Harvard researcher in renewable energy and biological systems, to see if they could re-program cells to increase efficiency of photosynthetic rates and carbon fixation in plants. Out of this collaboration came what they call the ‘bionic leaf.’

Illuminating the dark corners of nature’s nitrogen cycle by mimicking rocket-fuel-producing bacteria

20 Dec 2016, Wyss Institute

“The ultimate example of systems biology is the interactions that happen between the earth and atmosphere that fuel our entire biosphere and world,” said Silver. “We hope to illuminate an until-now dark corner of the nitrogen cycle that could have broad implications for the earth as a whole.”


Shaping the future of science

5 Dec 2016, Menzies Foundation

Imagine reducing the need for invasive gut tests like colonoscopies or developing bacteria in your gut which could help manage your own inflammatory conditions.

These are some of the potential futures for patients with inflammatory bowel disease being explored in Dr David Riglar’s research at Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Will the artificial leaf sprout to combat climate change? in c&en

21 Nov 2016, Katherine Bourzac

To get around the problem of efficiently making more valuable chemicals at higher purity, some researchers are turning back to the original inspiration: biology. Harvard University synthetic biologist Pamela Silver doesn’t think it’s necessary for chemists to twist themselves into knots trying to mimic biology. The question for her is how to use what biology has already given us. “Plants are the best chemists there are,” she says. “Trying to supplant that with pure chemistry” may be making things unnecessarily difficult. “How is this going to work if we don’t use biology?” she asks.



Training microbes to hunt out cancer and pollutants in WIRED

7 Oct 2016, Emma Bryce

Silver is working on “programming microbes that could sense and remember” environment information, and has found that bacteria can be engineered to detect a specific antibiotic inside mice and, when excreted, change colour to indicate its presence.


Outstanding Postdoc Service Award Recipient: David Riglar, PhD, Systems Biology

In conjunction with the 2016 National Postdoc Appreciation Week, the Office for Postdoctoral Fellows is partnering with the HMS/HSDM basic science departments to honor the achievements of some of our exceptional postdoctoral research fellows for their research accomplishments, while also considering all around scientific service.

New “Bionic” Leaf Is Roughly 10 Times More Efficient Than Natural Photosynthesis

in the Scientific American, 1 August 2016

Chemist Daniel Nocera of Harvard University and his team joined forces with synthetic biologist Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School and her team to craft a kind of living battery, which they call a bionic leaf for its melding of biology and technology.

Engineered microbes make silver nanoparticles

in c&en, 5 July 2016

To make these minuscule metal globs, Pamela A. Silver and Tobias W. Giessen of Harvard University turned to a 20-sided capsulelike structure in bacteria known as encapsulin, which holds iron-storing proteins that pack the capsule full of iron. The researchers removed the gene that encodes encapsulin’s iron-storing protein from Thermotoga maritima bacteria and replaced it with the sequence for a short protein that precipitates elemental silver instead. Then they transferred the entire genetic piece into an easy-to-grow laboratory strain of Escherichia coli. As a result, these structures in the engineered E. coli stuffed themselves with silver from their growth medium, forming symmetrical nanoparticles about 13 to 15 nm in diameter. The team broke open the cells to isolate and purify the nanoparticles.

Nanoparticle Niche

in the Harvard News, 17 June 2016

“Traditionally, synthetic biology has been very good at making organics—either protein drugs or small organic molecules like antibiotics,” said first author Tobias Giessen, research fellow in systems biology in the Silver lab. “Now the field is starting to be capable of using biology to make functional inorganic materials, such as these nanoparticles that can fight infection.”

Featured publication: Converting a natural protein compartment into a nanofactory for the size-constrained synthesis of antimicrobial silver nanoparticles. Giessen T, Silver PA. ACS Synthetic Biology. In press.

Facets of Discovery: Talks@12

23 June 2016

Three leading Harvard Medical School researchers share their discoveries and innovative approaches to complex scientific questions.

It’s alive, but is it life: Synthetic biology and the future of creation

at the World Science Festival, 4 June 2016

For decades, biologists have read and edited DNA, the code of life. Revolutionary developments are giving scientists the power to write it. Instead of tinkering with existing life forms, synthetic biologists may be on the verge of writing the DNA of a living organism from scratch. In the next decade, according to some, we may even see the first synthetic human genome. Join a distinguished group of synthetic biologists, geneticists and bioengineers who are edging closer to breathing life into matter.

Scientists say they’ve one-upped photosynthesis with a ‘bionic leaf’

in the Washington Post, by Sarah Kaplan, 2 June 2016

On Thursday, Silver and her colleagues report in the journal Science that they’ve combined solar panels, genetically modified bacteria and a synthetic catalyst to create a system that does exactly what a leaf does — turn sunshine into fuel — but much more efficiently.

Forget the sci-fi horror stories. Here’s what we could really learn from a synthetic genome

in STAT news, by Ike Swetlitz, 18 May 2016

Pamela Silver, a Harvard bioengineer who was invited to but did not attend last Tuesday’s meeting, said that taking the genome apart (with new gene-editing techniques likeCRISPR) and putting it together (through synthesis) are “complementary” methods: “No one is better than the other.”

Alina Chan, a postdoctoral researcher in Silver’s lab who gave a presentation about her work at last week’s meeting, is in the early stages of trying to put all these elements together to build and test human artificial chromosomes, the first step in making the real thing. Chan said that even if scientists were able to build a human genome from the ground up, it would be a far cry from a real person.

“Being able to write a book doesn’t mean the story actually becomes real,” Chan said.

Targeting EPO to Treat Anemia

in Science Signaling, by Annalisa M VanHook, 17 May 2016

Burrill et al. engineered a form of EPO that activates EPO-R specifically on RBC precursors, but not on other cell types. Because many signaling molecules affect multiple types of cells, similar engineering strategies to create forms that are tissue- or cell type–specific may permit the development of therapies that deliver a benefit while reducing or eliminating undesirable side effects.

Featured publication: D. R. Burrill, A. Vernet, J. J. Collins, P. A. Silver, J. C. Way, Targeted erythropoietin selectively stimulates red blood cell expansion in vivo. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 5245–5250 (2016). [PubMed]



We have developed Shapesifter, a three-dimensional constrained Brownian dynamics (CBD) simulation system for modeling protein systems at the domain level of detail (“coarse-grained”), and shown its application to quantitatively engineered therapeutic proteins.  The system focuses on a size scale below the resolution of the light microscope, where movement is difficult to observe and human intuition is poor, and above that of single atoms (the domain of more traditional molecular dynamics simulation).  Shapesifter allows the representation and modeling of macromolecular systems including Brownian forces, volume exclusion, linkers of various stiffnesses/material properties, electrostatics, and association/dissociation interactions.  We are interested in applications of this modeling approach to various engineered multidomain protein systems, including therapeutic protein fusions, in order to optimize their geometry and quantitative properties.  Shapesifter is under ongoing development and is available to the synthetic biology community at

Coiled proteins puncture membranes in response to pH cue

28 April 2016

Jane Coffin Childs Fellow Jessica Polka demonstrates the engineering potential of a unique protein polymer.

“There’s so much unique biology in non-model organisms, some of which is beautifully described by older literature,” she explains. “With DNA sequencing and synthesis technologies becoming more readily available, we can revisit these phenomena with modern tools. Perhaps these edge cases are the best systems to use to understand what biology is really capable of.”

Featured publication: A tunable protein piston that breaks membranes to release encapsulated cargo. Polka J, Silver PA. ACS Synthetic Biology. PMID: 26814170.

Fusion Protein Technique Shows Promise for Safer Cell-Targeted Therapeutics

26 April 2016

“Compared to currently available EPO drugs, our molecule is engineered to prevent EPO from binding to and activating cells that promote side effects such as blood clotting or tumor growth,” said Jeffrey Way, Ph.D., Wyss Institute Senior Staff Scientist and the senior author on the study. “This cell-targeted EPO approach demonstrates a new theoretical basis for the rational design of engineered protein fusion drugs.”

Brendan Colón on the Stuff You Should Know podcast

Starting at 2:12 from the end, released 3 March 2016

In response to The Future of Renewable Energy podcast

Renewable energy could be the key to ensuring the future prosperity and health of Planet Earth and humankind. In this very special episode, we sit down and discuss the possibilities with Bill Gates.

R bodies

Biologists steal nanospear technology from bacteria in The Atlantic

Ed Yong, 17 Feb 2016

Billions of years before hominids sharpened sticks into stabbing weapons, bacteria invented spears. Specifically, they invented transforming spears—structures that could almost instantly unfold from flat, coiled ribbons into long, pointed cylinders. They use these weapons to wage war on other microbes. And now, scientists—descendants of those early stick-sharpening hominids—are planning to tweak these bacterial javelins, and deploy them as tools for research, medicine, and more.

Breaking cell barriers with retractable protein nanoneedles in the Wyss Press Release

11 Feb 2016

Described in the American Chemical Society Synthetic Biology journal, the team describes using protein polymers known as “R bodies”, which are found in certain bacteria, as retractable nanoneedles that can extend to puncture cellular membranes and release molecules on command.

Featured publication: A tunable protein piston that breaks membranes to release encapsulated cargo. Polka J, Silver PA. ACS Synthetic Biology. PMID: 26814170.


Tapping the Marine Microbiome in the Wyss Press Release

22 Dec 2015

“The realization that we know so little about the Earth’s oceans, along with the advent of modern experimental techniques such as next generation sequencing and advanced microscopy methods, prompts me to believe that some of the major advances in the fields ranging from basic biochemistry, enzymology, metabolism, signaling, microbial interactions, and ecology, to medicinal natural products discovery, biomaterials, biogeochemistry, and origins of life will come from the oceans over the next few decades,” said Turnsek.

How microbes in your gut today hold clues to tomorrow’s medicines in STAT

9 December 2015

Silver, a biologist at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in Cambridge, Mass., wants to try to improve on nature. By altering the DNA of gut-dwelling microbes, she and her colleagues are designing organisms that can monitor the body and produce drugs on demand. Someday, Silver’s research could lead to a new way to treat our diseases: with living medicine.

Fluorescent-glowing bacteria help scientists see inside the body’s ‘dark places’ in the betaBoston

Shining light on microbial growth and death inside our guts in a Wyss Institute press release

30 November 2015

“The dream in this field is to make cell–based computers, using cells that can remember, count, sense, actuate and complete tasks in a programmable way,” said Pamela Silver, Ph.D., who is senior author on the new study, a Wyss Institute Core Faculty member on the Institute’s Synthetic Biology platform, the Eliot T. and Onie H. Adams Professorship of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and a founder of the HMS Department of Systems Biology. “This advance brings us another step closer to making that original dream a reality.”

Featured publication: Myhrvold C, Kotula JW, Hicks WM, Conway NJ, Silver PA. (2015). A distributed cell division counter reveals growth dynamics in the gut microbiota. Nature Communications, 6: 10039. PMID: 26615910

The 2015 Innovation By Design Awards Winners: Fashion 


Creators: MIT Media Lab Mediated Matter Gorup (Steven Keating, Neri Oxman, Will Patrick and Sunanda Sharma) with Deskriptiv, the Pamela Silver Lab at Harvard Medical School, and Stratasys

Most wearables convey a bit of information and not much more. But Neri Oxman, founder of the Mediated Matter research group at MIT, imagines a future where wearables aren’t just passive lifestyle devices: They could generate the food, energy, light, and oxygen to keep us alive. In a project dubbed Wanderers, Oxman proposes wearable vessels that have photosynthetic bacteria culturing inside, creating the resources that an interplanetary traveler would need to survive in other climates.

Synthetic Biology Needs Robust Safety Mechanisms Before Real World Application in Elsevier

and Is synthetic biology the key to health? in Elsevier Connect

by Lucy Goodchild van Hilten, 16 September 2015

“Historically, molecular biologists engineered microbes as industrial organisms to produce different molecules,” said Dr. Silver. “The more we discovered about microbes, the easier it was to program them. We’ve now reached a very exciting phase in synthetic biology where we’re ready to apply what we’ve developed in the real world, and this is where safety is vital.”

Publication featured: Ford TJ and Silver PA. (2015). Synthetic biology expands control of microorganisms. Current Opinion in Chemical Biology, 28:20-28. PMID: 26056951

Transplanting circadian rhythms from one organism to another in The Boston Globe

by Kevin Hartnett, 1 July 2015

“Anna interfaced the clock with transcription of genes that makes these colored proteins,” says Silver. “You could just look at cells and see that they were keeping time.”

Publication featured: Chen AH, Lubkowicz D, Yeong V, Chang RL and Silver PA. (2015). Transplantability of a circadian clock to a noncircadian organism. Science Advances. 1(5):e1500358.

Re-booting the human gut, a Wyss Institute press release, 16 June 2015

“A new grant awarded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for up to $4.7 million dollars over the course of the work, will support the efforts of the project’s co–principal investigators Wyss Core Faculty member Pamela Silver, Ph.D., and Wyss Senior Staff Scientist Jeffrey Way, Ph.D., who will team up with Wyss Founding Director Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. The cross–disciplinary Wyss team aims to fight gastrointestinal illness through tactics invisible to the naked eye by developing an army of genetically engineered bacteria designed to sense, report and combat harmful microbial invaders.”

Circadian Clock Transplant in The Scientist

by Ruth Williams, 12 June 2015

“Circadian clock machinery from cyanobacteria has been successfully reconstructed inside Escherichia coli bacteria, which do not have a natural day-night cycle, according to a paper published today (June 12) in Science Advances. The E. coli cells exhibited 24-hour-long repeating oscillations in both transcription of a reporter gene and phosphorylation of a key clock protein. The results serve as a proof of principle that engineering such a synthetic circadian circuit is possible.”

Setting the circadian clock, a Wyss Institute press release, 12 June 2015

“Now, scientists led by the pioneering Harvard synthetic biologist Pamela Silver, Ph.D., have harnessed the circadian mechanism found in cyanobacteria to transplant the circadian wiring into a common species of bacteria that is naturally non–circadian. The novel work, which for the first time demonstrates the transplant of a circadian rhythm, is reported in a new study in Science Advances.”

Publication featured: Chen AH, Lubkowicz D, Yeong V, Chang RL and Silver PA. (2015). Transplantability of a circadian clock to a noncircadian organism. Science Advances. 1(5):e1500358.

Mushtari by Neri Oxman

14 May 2015

In collaboration with our lab, alongside members of the Mediated Matter research group and Deskriptiv, Oxman unveiled the 3D printed photosynthetic wearable on the TED2015 stage in Vancouver.

This is the first time that 3D printing technology has been used to produce a photosynthetic wearable piece with hollow internal channels designed to house microorganism.” Inspired by the human gastrointestinal tract, Mushtari is designed to host synthetic microorganisms – a co-culture of photosynthetic cyanobacteria and E. coli bacteria – that can fluoresce bright colors in darkness and produce sugar or biofuels when exposed to the sun. Such functions will in the near future augment the wearer by scanning our skins, repairing damaged tissue and sustaining our bodies, an experiment that has never been attempted before.” – Oxman


What breakthroughs are possible by modifying an organism’s genome?

The Wyss Institute Disruptive podcast, May 2015

In this inaugural episode, radio host Terrence McNally discusses with Wyss Core Faculty Pam Silver and George Church the high-impact benefits of their synthetic biology work, as well as how they manage potential unintended consequences.


“Bionic Leaf” Makes Fuel from Sunlight in the Scientific American

by David Biello, 9 February 2015

Bacteria Turn Sunlight to Liquid Fuel in ‘Bionic Leaf’ in NBC News

by Alan Boyle, 9 February 2015

<< Ralstonia eutropha makes fuel using the hydrogen produced via catalysts powered by electric current from a photovoltaic panel.

Publication featured: Torella JP, Gagliardi CJ, Chen JS, Bediako DK, Colón B, Way JC, Silver PA & Nocera DG. (2015). Efficient solar-to-fuels production from a hybrid microbial-water-splitting catalyst system. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 112(8):2337-42. PMID: 25675518


Top 20 Influencers in Synthetic Biology by SynBio 2014

Radcliffe Asks, “What Is Life?” by Harvard Magazine, 3 June 2014

<< Discussing the science and ethics of engineering life are (from left) Eric S. Lander, Linda Griffith, David Liu, Pamela Silver, and I. Glenn Cohen.


Bacterial reporters that get the scoop

Wyss Institute press release, 17 March 2014

<< Inspired by nature, the team engineered E. coli to sense, record and remember an environmental signal in the gut — and also demonstrated that they can survive and function within the complex environment of the mammalian gut. This work lays the foundation for the use of engineered probiotic bacteria that serve as non-destructive living diagnostics. In this schematic engineered probiotic E. coli have colonized the mammalian intestine and “remember” exposure to an environmental signal, which is indicated by the cells turning blue in color.

Publication featured: Kotula JW, Kerns SJ, Shaket LA, Siraj L, Collins JJ, Way JC and Silver PA. (2014). Programmable bacteria detect and record an environmental signal in the mammalian gut. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 111(13):4838-43. PMID: 24639514


High-Octane Bacteria Could Ease Pain at the Pump

Harvard Medical School news, 25 June 2013

<< By rerouting the metabolic pathway that makes fatty acids in E. coli bacteria like these, researchers have devised a new way to produce a gasoline-like biofuel. Image courtesy of Wyss Institute.

Publication featured: Torella JP, Ford TJ, Kim SN, Chen AM, Way JC and Silver PA. (2013). Tailored fatty acid synthesis via dynamic control of fatty acid elongation. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 110(28):11290-5. PMID: 23798438