By Mark Dwortzan
Assistant Professor Ahmad (“Mo”) Khalil (BME) was named as one of 20 of the most promising early-career genomics researchers around the world by GenomeWeb, a leading publication in the field. Nominated by prominent biomedical researchers, individuals on GenomeWeb’s eighth annual Young Investigators list were recognized for original work in developing and applying genomic methods—such as DNA sequencing, assembly and analysis—to improving our understanding of everything from cell communication to plant growth to cancer formation.
Khalil, an expert in synthetic biology, was selected based on his outstanding research in advancing genomics methods to analyze the behavior of cells and to re-engineer them to perform useful tasks.
“Mo is one of the young stars in synthetic biology,” said Professor James J. Collins (BME, MSE, SE), director of the College’s new Center of Synthetic Biology (CoSBi), who recommended Khalil for the honor. “His work represents a significant conceptual and technical advance for the field, providing a new, reliable and expanded toolkit of genetic components with which to program novel behaviors in living cells.”
“I am thrilled to have been selected as a Young Investigator in genomics research, and strongly believe in the power of new approaches, like synthetic biology, in elucidating the design logic of complex cellular systems,” said Khalil, associate director of CoSBi.
Khalil, who became interested as a PhD student at MIT in applying engineering methods to elucidate how cells behave, and in re-engineering biological systems to fashion new materials and devices, now pursues both interests in his lab at Boston University.
Khalil is developing engineering techniques and microfluidic devices to systematically explore how cells respond to a wide range of environmental stimuli. Informed by this newfound knowledge, he is advancingnew synthetic biology methods to assemble genetic components into “circuits” that perform logical operations in living cells, with the long-term goal of empowering cells to solve critical problems in healthcare, energy and the environment.