Council

  • Nicole Buan

    Nicole Buan is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has broad expertise in microbial physiology, metabolism, and redox biochemistry. Dr. Buan recently co-founded the Archaea Power Hour virtual seminar series and serves as Associate Editor for Applied Environmental Microbiology and Frontiers in Microbiology (Microbial Physiology and Metabolism) journals. Dr. Buan began research as a high school student in Tucson, Arizona, where she did undergraduate thesis research on ATP-independent molecular chaperone proteins in plants under the supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Vierling at the University of Arizona. She received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was a Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellow in the lab of Jorge Escalante-Semerena. There, she made key contributions to understanding protein:protein interactions involved in coenzyme B12 synthesis in Salmonella, discovered the only known iron-sulfur-cluster-containing B12 adenosyltransferase enzyme, and investigated the use of B12 mimics as chemotherapeutic “Trojan horses”. Her graduate work was recognized by the Department of Bacteriology Herman Smythe Award for Outstanding PhD research. As a NIH Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of William Metcalf at the University of Illinois, Dr. Buan received training in methanogen genetics and characterized the terminal oxidase heterodisulfide reductase enzymes. At Nebraska, Dr. Buan and her students study redox biochemistry, systems, and synthetic biology in archaea, bacteria, and plants on various projects funded by NSF, NIH, USDA, Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research, Nebraska Corn Board, and the Water Environment Reuse Foundation. Buan lab research has been awarded two patents, and Dr. Buan is the owner of two biotech startups.

  • Jennifer Brophy

    Jenn Brophy is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering at Stanford University. Her lab focuses on engineering plant development to control the size and shape of plant organs and tissues. Jenn received her BS in bioengineering from UC Berkeley and PhD from MIT, where she worked with Professors Christopher Voigt and Alan Grossman to develop a tool for engineering undomesticated bacteria and modifying microbiomes in situ. For her postdoctoral research, she worked with Professor Jose Dinneny at Stanford to engineer spatial patterns of gene expression across plant roots using synthetic genetic circuits. Jenn was previously Co-Chair of the Synberc Student and Postdoc Association, the precursor to the EBRC and was recently awarded a Chan Zuckerburg Biohub Investigatorship.

  • John Dileo

    John Dileo manages the Biotechnology and Life Sciences Department at the MITRE Corporation in McLean, Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics & Biochemistry from the University of Pittsburgh and has specialized in experimental and theoretical research in molecular, systems, and synthetic biology, while also providing support and oversight to numerous large Government research and development programs in those fields of study. At MITRE, his department has groups that focus on biosafety, security and quality; countering weapons of mass destruction; medical countermeasures development; and human performance optimization.

  • Elizabeth Vitalis

    Beth Vitalis joined Inscripta in 2019 to help stand-up Biosecurity for the company’s digital genome engineering platform. She and the company are committed to safe, responsible use of its technology and have prioritized a proactive strategy to identify and help prevent biorisk scenarios. Beth interacts with groups across the company to implement a multi-faceted biosecurity system and continually adapt it to an expanding range of genome engineering endeavors. She is enthusiastic to collaborate with the greater engineering biology community to ensure security of our advancing technologies. After obtaining her Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences at UC San Francisco, Beth joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California where she led or contributed to various government supported biorisk detection and characterization efforts. Her projects included standardized pathogen assays, microbe evolution, functional predictions, and synthetic biology risk assessment. She also has enjoyed graduate and undergrad biology teaching roles and participating in community science education events.

  • David Shepherd

    David Shepherd is a Program Manager for the Department of Homeland Security, in its Science and Technology Directorate. He manages projects that help DHS and the interagency understand threats and risks stemming from biological agents and related advances. His projects range from in-depth studies of threats to creating measures to mitigate those risks and threats, with emphasis on efforts to build intergovernmental awareness and understanding. Recently Mr. Shepherd has started projects to bring the government community and the commercial community closer together to build the collaborative means to address 21st century threats, including risks to the bioeconomy. He also manages the Hazard Knowledge Center within DHS S&T’s Probablistic Awareness of National Threats, Hazards and Risks (PANTHR) program, and is S&T’s liaison to the DOD’s Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office. Mr. Shepherd has been a federal program manager working in threat and risk awareness and reduction for over two decades. He has degrees in electrical engineering, history, and telecommunications.

  • Lauren Junker

    Dr. Lauren Junker is an innovation scout for Industrial Biotechnology Research at BASF. She has been a leader in the Industrial Biotechnology research group at BASF for the past 7 years where her teams research focused on microbiome research for personal care, microbial control solutions for personal care and animal nutrition and fermentation process optimization.
    Interested in technologies and partners to accelerate Bioscience research at BASF in the areas of industrial biotechnology including industrial enzyme and biocatalyst engineering, strain engineering for bio-based chemical production, fermentation process optimization and microbiome research.

    Previous roles include serving as a microbiologist and clinical research scientist within Johnson & Johnson’s Consumer Products Division. She earned her Ph.D. in Microbiology from Cornell University and did a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Harvard Medical School where she conducted research on microbial biofilms. At BASF, Dr. Junker and her team of biotechnologists work together with BASF’s Beauty Care Solutions, Care Chemicals to provide efficacious solutions for skin health, focusing on microbiome benefits.

  • Michael Koepke

    Michael is a pioneer in genetic engineering and strain development of gas fermenting organisms to convert carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide to useful products. His research on Clostridium ljungdahlii demonstrated for the first time that gas fermenting acetogens can be genetically modified and provided a first genome and genetic blueprint of such an organism.

    Since 2009, Michael is Director of Synthetic Biology at LanzaTech, a company that has developed a proprietary gas fermentation process that is revolutionizing the way the world thinks about waste carbon by treating it as an opportunity instead of a liability. Michael and his team are responsible for development of genetic tools and synthetic pathways as well as strain engineering of LanzaTech’s proprietary gas fermenting organisms to optimize performance of the process and expand the product portfolio. Michael leads several of LanzaTech R&D collaborations with both industrial and academic partners.

    Michael has over 15 years of experience working with clostridia and gas fermenting organisms and holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Biotechnology from University of Ulm, Germany. Michael authored over 100 patents and over 30 peer reviewed articles and book chapters. Michael also contributed as scientific advisor to the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and co-organizer of international conferences as the 2018 Foundations of Systems Biology (FOSBE) and Biochemical and Molecular Engineering XXII and has been awarded the 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award for Greener Synthetic Pathways by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and American Chemical Society (ACS).

  • Aditya Kunjapur

    Dr. Aditya Kunjapur began as an Assistant Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware in December 2018. His lab focuses on expanding the repertoire of microbial chemistry with an emphasis on enabling new chemical functional groups in living contexts. Dr. Kunjapur received his doctoral degree from MIT in 2015, where he trained under Dr. Kristala Prather and enabled aldehyde biosynthesis in E. coli. Afterwards, he performed postdoctoral research under the supervision of Dr. George Church at Harvard Medical School, where he designed platforms to improve the fidelity of non-standard amino acid incorporation into proteins. Dr. Kunjapur was previously Co-Chair of the Synberc Student and Postdoc Association, the precursor to the EBRC. In 2019, Dr. Kunjapur was awarded an Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative Fellowship.

  • Mark Blenner

    My research group addresses big problems in sustainability, human health, national defense, and space exploration – using synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, genomics & systems biology, and protein engineering. We are most interested in derisking and speeding up cell line development. We work mostly in eukaryotic systems (non-model yeast and mammalian cells) as well as bacteria.

  • Merja Penttilä

    Merja Penttilä is a research professor in biotechnology at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and an adjunct professor in synthetic biology at Aalto University. Her expertise is on engineering of microbes for the production of fuels, chemicals, enzymes and materials. She has acted as the director of the Academy of Finland CoE on White biotechnology – Green chemistry, and is a PI in the current CoE on Molecular engineering of biosynthetic hybrid materials (Hyber). She has coordinated a large strategic project “Living Factories: Synthetic Biology for a sustainable Bioeconomy”, and led many EU level and industrial projects. She is acting an advisory board or committee member of a number of international organisations. She is the initiator of Synbio Powerhouse, an ecosystem to promote biotechnology and synthetic biology in Finland and beyond. She has total of 334 publications, 14 457 Web of science citations, and h-index of 70.

  • Zachary Sun

    Zachary Sun is the CEO and co-Founder of Tierra Biosciences, a startup leveraging cell-free synthetic biology, automation, computer learning, and metagenomics to identify new molecules and new chemistry from Nature’s genetic datasets.

  • Sam Weiss Evans

    Sam’s work focuses on the governance of security concerns in emerging research technology, especially biology. He studies and actively engages with a range of communities building new approaches to the identification and governance of security concerns, including US and British governments, the international Genetically Engineered Machines Competition, DARPA, and the United Nations Institute on Disarmament Research.

  • Rebecca Nugent

    Dr. Rebecca Nugent joined Twist Bioscience after spending many years in the biofuels and green chemicals industry. Dr. Nugent leads R&D teams at Twist Bioscience focused on the development of Synthetic Biology and Next-Generation Sequencing Target Enrichment (NGS TE) products. Dr. Rebecca Nugent received her Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the University of Southern California, where she studied yeast genetics with an emphasis on genomic stability in Dr. Susan Forsburg’s lab. During her postdoctoral fellowship she developed life science tools through characterizing and engineering novel Restriction Enzymes at New England Biolabs.

  • Robert Egbert

    Dr. Robert Egbert (Rob) is a staff scientist in the Biological Sciences Division at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Dr. Egbert is an expert in bacterial genetic circuit design and genome engineering. He received dual-BS degrees in electrical engineering and Korean at Brigham Young University, a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Washington working with Eric Klavins, and a joint appointment as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory with Adam Arkin. He currently leads a DOE program in Secure Biosystems Design on novel genome remodeling approaches to control the persistence of engineered functions in the environment, is Integration Lead for a PNNL-led team for the DARPA Friend or Foe program, and is Co-PI for data-driven synthetic biology within the DARPA Synergistic Discovery and Design program. Dr. Egbert is also the Science Lead for an PNNL internal investment in synthetic biology and biosecurity. Outside of work, Rob loves adventures with his wife and three children: swimming, kayaking, and river rafting in lakes and rivers of the mountain West; backpacking in the Pacific Northwest, Utah red rocks, and Canadian Rocky Mountains; and pinball. Rob also enjoys playing competitive ultimate frisbee.

  • Kevin Solomon

    Dr. Kevin Solomon is an Assistant Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. His work studies animal microbiomes to develop novel microbial platforms for sustainable biomanufacturing and depolymerization of polymeric waste substrates. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering from McMaster University (Canada) and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from MIT. As part of his graduate work, Dr. Solomon developed new tools to increase biomanufacturing efficiency. His research and mentorship, at the intersection of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, were recognized with multiple awards including a Lemelson Presidential Fellowship, an NSERC Julie Payette Award, and a Science Education Leadership Award from SynBERC. As a postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Barbara, he applied the latest advances in sequencing technologies to study how anaerobic fungi degrade lignocellulose and identify new tools for synthetic biology. Using these techniques, he spearheaded efforts to molecularly characterize in depth a class of elusive microbes with tremendous potential for biofuel production, agriculture, and drug discovery. His work is supported by the NSF, DOE, private trusts and industry.

  • Jesse Zalatan

    Jesse Zalatan is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Washington. His research focuses on understanding the physical organizing principles of biological networks in systems such as cell signaling, metabolism, and gene regulation, using methods ranging from mechanistic enzymology to synthetic biology. Jesse did his graduate work with Dan Herschlag on the mechanisms of enzyme-catalyzed phosphoryl transfer reactions. He performed postdoctoral research with Wendell Lim, where he studied mechanisms for controlling specificity in cell signaling networks.

  • Jean Peccoud

    Dr. Peccoud’s research program focuses on synthetic biology informatics. His group combines computational and experimental efforts to develop predictive models of behaviors encoded in synthetic DNA sequences. He is particularly interested in using methods from synthetic biology to optimize biomanufacturing processes used to produce biologic drugs, antibodies, and other proteins of commercial interest. Peccoud is also actively engaged in efforts to understand the security implications of synthetic biology.

    Shortly after completing a graduate research project in molecular immunology, Jean Peccoud’s scientific interests shifted to computational biology. In 1989, he published one of the first articles describing a mathematical model of molecular noise in gene regulatory networks. In 1993, he recognized the importance of real-time PCR and developed new statistical techniques suitable to analyze this new type of data. In 2002, he observed with excitement the very early developments of synthetic biology. After exploring the potential applications of this new technology to plant biotechnology, he blazed a trail in synthetic biology informatics.

    Jean Peccoud came to Colorado State University from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech. He brought with him a diverse experience that includes working for Fortune 500 and start-up companies. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal Synthetic Biology published by Oxford University Press.

  • Melissa Takahashi

    Melissa Takahashi is an Assistant Professor of Biology at California State University Northridge. She received her Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from Cornell University and did postdoctoral research with James J. Collins at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Takahashi lab studies the biological principles behind RNA gene regulation in bacteria. A major focus of the lab is understanding and combating the roles of RNA regulation in antibiotic resistance mechanisms. The lab uses cell-free transcription-translation platforms to investigate these mechanisms.

  • Kate Adamala

    Kate Adamala is a biochemist building synthetic cells. Her research aims at understanding chemical principles of biology, using artificial cells to create new tools for bioengineering, drug development, and basic research. Kate’s research spans questions from the origin and earliest evolution of life, using synthetic biology to colonize space, to the future of biotechnology and medicine.

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