Automated DNA Assembly Platform for Bioengineering


Automated DNA Assembly Platform for Bioengineering wins one of two Design Excellence Awards. Pictured from left are Babak Kia Montazam, Senior Lecturer; Alan Pisano, Associate Professor of the Practice; Janoo Fernandes; Alejandro Pelaez Lechuga; and David Castañón, Professor and Department Chair

Synthetic biology is a young field, but many researchers believe that its effects could be far-reaching in areas such as energy production and disease detection.

DNA sequencing is an important part of the process, both in gaining information about how to construct new organisms and in verifying that new life systems have been fabricated as intended.

To achieve the vision synthetic biologists have in mind for improving society, a better system is needed for DNA assembly.

“The physical construction of organisms with engineered behaviors is an essential process in the practice of synthetic biology,” said Janoo Fernandes (ECE ’13), who studied the process while working on his senior design project. “Unlike electronic software, physically creating, modifying, and reusing genetic programs entails executing a laborious sequence of biological procedures. As is, this process involves a lot of planning and time.”

Team 16 presenting on ECE Day

Team 16 presenting on ECE Day

Fernandes and Alejandro Pelaez Lechuga (ECE ’13) sought a better solution and presented their idea at ECE Day ’13.

The students worked with Assistant Professor Douglas Densmore (ECE) to come up with Puppeteer v.0.1.7, a web-client that supports user-specification, projected resource reports, and assembly-specific execution instructions.

“We’ve formalized the biological procedures into a software program that manages resources and creates plans and instructions,” said Lechuga.

“It frees synthetic biologists from the recurring tasks of planning, optimization, computation, and execution arising in the physical construction of organisms, allowing them to focus on scientific questions,” added Fernandes.

Impressed by their work, the alumni judges at ECE Day awarded the team one of two Design Excellence Awards.

View video of the presentation by Automated DNA Assembly Platform for Bioengineering.