Research: Projects

Computational Biology Research*

The field of synthetic biology, made possible by using computers to process genomic data, has led to the ability to build synthetic genes and re-engineer the genetic structure of organisms.

Researchers in the CBRL, directed by Wes Hatfield, use computational methods to solve challenging biological problems, including gene synthesis and protein production. They produce synthetic genes that rapidly that encode proteins of interest optimized for desirable sequence properties, such as optimal translation kinetics for folding and expression in a chosen target organism. This method involves a novel computational optimization of DNA sequences to allow the correct self-assembly of many overlapping short synthetic DNA oligonucleotides into a complete gene of any desired amino acid sequence.

Current projects include:
Computationally optimized DNA assembly of synthetic genes – developing the computational algorithms and accompanying biological methods for the design and synthesis of self-assembling DNA sequences.

Metabolically engineering yeast for biofuels – engineering yeast to utilize biomass sugars for the production of transportation fuels.

A functional census of p53 cancer and suppressor mutants – developing algorithms to predict how function can be restored to mutant proteins found in nearly half of all human cancers. This information will be used to design anti-cancer drugs.
Protein standards for mass spectrometry – producing peptides with specific properties for use as markers in analyzing complex protein mixtures.