Michael Elowitz

Michael Elowitz

Caltech, USA
  • Position : Professor of Biology, Bioengineering and Applied Physics; Bren Scholar; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Website : https://www.elowitz.caltech.edu/

Michael Elowitz is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering, and Applied Physics at Caltech. Dr. Elowitz's laboratory has introduced synthetic biology approaches to build and understand genetic circuits in living cells and tissues. As a graduate student with Stanislas Leibler, Elowitz developed the Repressilator, an artificial genetic clock that generates gene expression oscillations in individual E. coli cells. Since then, he has continued to design and build synthetic genetic circuits, bringing a “build to understand” approach to bacteria, yeast, and mammalian cells. He and his lab showed that gene expression is intrinsically stochastic, or ‘noisy’, and revealed how noise functions to enable probabilistic differentiation, time-based regulation, and other functions. Currently, Elowitz’s lab is bringing synthetic approaches to understand and program cell-cell communication, epigenetic memory and cell fate control, and to provide foundations for future therapeutic devices. His lab also co-develops the synthetic “MEMOIR” system that allows cells to record their own lineage histories. Elowitz received his PhD in Physics from Princeton University, and did postdoctoral research at Rockefeller University. Honors include the HFSP Nakasone Award, MacArthur Fellowship, Presidential Early Career Award, Allen Distinguished Investigator Award, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Friday, Sep 9

16:00 - 17:30
Talk during Session 8 | Engineering biological systems

Title of talk : Multicellular circuit design: natural and synthetic


Multicellular systems depend on molecular pathways, or circuits, for cell-cell communication, cell fate control, memory, and other core functions. Better understanding the perplexing designs of these circuits could allow us to control cells more precisely and to program new cellular behaviors. Our recent work brings “build to understand” synthetic biology approaches and quantitative analysis of natural pathways to identify new circuit design principles in mammalian cells. In particular, I will focus on a fully synthetic, but naturally inspired, cell fate control system that establishes multiple stable states, as well as synthetic circuits that allow cells to control their own population sizes using a “private” communication channel. I will also discuss circuits that use promiscuous ligand-receptor interactions to enable specificity in cell-cell communication. These results highlight unexpected circuit design principles that enable both natural and synthetic circuit behaviors.


Event Session