Centre for Synthetic Biology and the Bioeconomy

Past Seminars

Synthetic Genomics: from genetic parts to genomes - Prof Patrick Yizhi Cai

Prof Patrick Cai, Chair of Synthetic Genomics, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Manchester

Date/Time: 20th of March 2018, 13:00-14:00

Venue: CBCB Baddiley-Clark Building, large meeting room level 2


The Synthetic Yeast genome project, or Sc2.0 (www.syntheticyeast.org), aims to design, construct, and replace the native 12Mb genome of Saccharomyces cerevisiae with a fully synthetic version. Sc2.0 chromosomes encode a myriad of designer changes. First, to improve genomic stability, destabilizing elements such as transposons and tRNA genes are removed from the synthetic genome. Second, synonymously recoded sequences called PCRtags permit encryption and tracking of the synthetic DNA. Finally, to enable downstream genetic flexibility, Sc2.0 encodes an inducible evolution system called SCRaMbLE (Synthetic Chromosome Rearrangement and Modification by LoxP-mediated Evolution) that can generate combinatorial genetic diversity on command. To date, ~70% of the genome has been synthesized and we have powered a semi-synthetic yeast entirely dependent on multiple synthetic chromosome arms designed to our specifications. Software and experimental infrastructure developed to facilitate Sc2.0 genome design and construction are applicable to new projects ranging from single gene/pathway design to synthesizing artificial chromosomes.



Prof. “Patrick" Yizhi Cai received a bachelor degree in Computer Science in China, a master degree in Bioinformatics from University of Edinburgh in the UK, and a PhD in Genetics, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology from Virginia Tech in the USA. Prof. Cai had his postdoctoral fellowship under Jef Boeke in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Prof. Cai serves as a senior scientific consultant to Beijing Genomics Institute, and is the first Autodesk Distinguished Scholar. From 2013 to 2017, Prof. Cai had his own research group at the University of Edinburgh with a prestigious Chancellor's Fellowship, and his lab focuses on Computer Assisted Design for Synthetic Biology, NeoChromosome design and synthesis in the yeast, and DNA assembly automation. In the summer of 2017, Prof. Cai moved to the University of Manchester as the new chair Professor in synthetic genomics. Prof. Cai co-founded Edinburgh Genome Foundry, the International Centre for Synthetic Genomics at BGI, and the GP-Write China Centre at Chinese Academy of Sciences.