- Synthetic Biology, Systems Biology, and Quantitative Biology
Gene regulatory networks are one of the main cellular infrastructures that confer defined biological functions. Our research focuses on synthetic and systems biology - the analysis, construction, and exploitation of these regulatory networks for cellular functionality programming. This is an interdisciplinary research area that spans the boundary between biology, engineering, and physics. Specifically, we are interested in understanding the architecture and dynamics of naturally existing networks, primarily those in bacteria, and exploring their relationship to cellular function. One interesting example is bacterial communication networks and their roles in enabling cellular collective behaviors. In parallel, we are interested in engineering gene circuits for biomedical applications by assembling and editing genes and genomes inside living cells, very much like building integrated circuits with transistors and other elements for a computer. Along that line, microbiota reengineering is very attractive to us because of its potential for therapeutic interventions. To pursue our interest, we have adopted E. coli and other bacteria as our model organisms, and have also employed an integrated experimental and computational approach. Experimental techniques from molecular biology and theoretical tools from nonlinear dynamics and statistical mechanics are extensively used in our research. Our long-term goal is to uncover nature's design principles of gene regulatory networks and to apply these principles to engineer novel circuits for biomedical applications.
- List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students, UIUC (2015)
- Invited Participant, Arab-American Frontiers of Science, Engineering and Medicine Symposium, U.S. National Academy of Sciences (2017)
- Young Investigator Award, Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University (2017)
- Center for Advanced Study Fellow, UIUC (2017)
- NCSA Faculty Fellowship (2016)
- Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2016)
- Young Innovator of Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering (BMES) (2016)
- National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2015)
- Ellen Schapiro & Gerald Axelbaum Investigator (BBRF) (2015)
- NARSAD Young Investigator Award (BBRF) (2014)
- National Scientist Development Grant (AHA) (2012)
Selected Articles in Journals
- W. Kong, D. Meldgin, J. Collins, and T. Lu, Designing microbial consortia with defined social interactions, Nature Chemical Biology, in press (2018).
- C. Liao, A. Blanchard, and T. Lu, An integrative circuit-host modeling framework for predicting synthetic gene network behaviors, Nature Microbiology 2: 1658–1666 (2017).
- W. Kong, A. Blanchard, C. Liao, and T. Lu, Engineering robust and tunable spatial structures with synthetic gene circuits, Nucleic Acids Res. 45: 1005-1014 (2016)
- W. Kong, K. Kapuganti, and T. Lu, A gene network engineering platform for lactic acid bacteria, Nucleic Acid Res. DOI: 44(4): e37 (2015)
- C. Liao, S. Seo, V. Celik, H. Liu, W. Kong, Y. Wang, H. Blaschek, Y. Jin, and T. Lu, Integrated, systems metabolic picture of acetone-butanol-ethanol fermentation by clostridium acetobutylicum, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 112: 8505–8510 (2015)
- H. Liu and T. Lu, Autonomous production of 1,4-butanediol via a de novo biosynthesis pathway in engineered escherichia coli, Metab. Eng. 29: 135-141 (2014)
- W. Fu, A. Ergun*, T. Lu*, J. Hill, S. Haxhinasto, M. Fassett, R. Gazit, S. Adoro, L. Glimcher, S. Chan, P. Kastner, D. Rossi, J. Collins, D. Mathis, C. Benoist, A multiply redundant genetic switch locks in the transcriptional signature of Treg cells, Nature Immunology. 13: 972-980 (2012). (*Equal contribution)
- W. Ruder*, T. Lu*, and J. Collins, Synthetic biology moving into the clinic, Science. 333: 1248-1252 (2011). (*Equal contribution)
- T. Lu, T. Shen, M. Bennett, P. Wolynes, and J. Hasty, Phenotypic variability of growing cellular populations, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 104: 18982-18987 (2007).
- T. Lu, T. Shen, C. Zong, J. Hasty, and P. Wolynes, Statistics of cellular signal transduction as a race to the nucleus by multiple random walkers in compartment /phosphorylation space, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 103: 16752-16757 (2006).