School of Engineering
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BioProfessor Smolke's research program focuses on developing modular genetic platforms for programming information processing and control functions in living systems, resulting in transformative technologies for engineering, manipulating, and probing biological systems. She has pioneered the design and application of a broad class of RNA molecules, called RNA devices, that process and transmit user-specified input signals to targeted protein outputs, thereby linking molecular computation to gene expression. This technology has been extended to efficiently construct multi-input devices exhibiting various higher-order information processing functions, demonstrating combinatorial assembly of many information processing, transduction, and control devices from a smaller number of components. Her laboratory is applying these technologies to addressing key challenges in cellular therapeutics, targeted molecular therapies, and green biosynthesis strategies.
Hyongsok Tom Soh
Professor of Radiology (Early Detection), of Electrical Engineering and, by courtesy, of Chemical Engineering and of Bioengineering
BioDr. Soh received his B.S. with a double major in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science with Distinction from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. From 1999 to 2003, Dr. Soh served as the technical manager of MEMS Device Research Group at Bell Laboratories and Agere Systems. He was a faculty member at UCSB before joining Stanford in 2015. His current research interests are in analytical biotechnology, especially in high-throughput screening, directed evolution, and integrated biosensors.
James H. Clark Professor in the School of Engineering and Professor of Chemical Engineering and of Bioengineering
Current Research and Scholarly InterestsProgram Overview
The world we enjoy, including the oxygen we breathe, has been beneficially created by biological systems. Consequently, we believe that innovative biotechnologies can also serve to help correct a natural world that non-natural technologies have pushed out of balance. We must work together to provide a sustainable world system capable of equitably improving the lives of over 10 billion people.
Toward that objective, our program focuses on human health as well as planet health. To address particularly difficult challenges, we seek to synergistically combine: 1) the design and evolution of complex protein-based nanoparticles and enzymatic systems with 2) innovative, uniquely capable cell-free production technologies.
To advance human health we focus on: a) achieving the 120 year-old dream of producing “magic bullets”; smart nanoparticles that deliver therapeutics or genetic therapies only to specific cells in our bodies; b) precisely designing and efficiently producing vaccines that mimic viruses to stimulate safe and protective immune responses; and c) providing a rapid point-of-care liquid biopsy that will count and harvest circulating tumor cells.
To address planet health we are pursuing biotechnologies to: a) inexpensively use atmospheric CO2 to produce commodity biochemicals as the basis for a new carbon negative chemical industry, and b) mitigate the intermittency challenges of photovoltaic and wind produced electricity by producing hydrogen either from biomass sugars or directly from sunlight.
More than 25 years ago, Professor Swartz began his pioneering work to develop cell-free biotechnologies. The new ability to precisely focus biological systems toward efficiently addressing new, “non-natural” objectives has proven tremendously useful as we seek to address the crucial and very difficult challenges listed above. Another critical feature of the program is the courage (or naivete) to approach important objectives that require the development and integration of several necessary-but- not-sufficient technology advances.