Rapid advancements in technology and science are shaping a new era, with artificial intelligence and synthetic biology, or “syn-bio,” at the forefront. Heralded as the next big leap in science, syn-bio involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities. The importance of syn-bio for people and our planet cannot be overstated. It offers novel ways of producing almost anything that human beings consume, from flavors and fabrics to foods and fuels. Today, the combination of syn-bio and AI – two of the most potent realms of science and technology – promises to unravel solutions to our most pressing challenges, including Earth’s food and water, the environment and sustainability, bioenergy, and human health care.
One widely recognized trailblazer in syn-bio is Jim Collins, professor of medical engineering and science and professor of biological engineering at MIT. He is also a core founding faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. In the latest episode of the “Ideas to Innovation Season 3” podcast from Clarivate, Collins helps listeners navigate through the exciting but complex landscape of syn-bio. He also discusses what it was like to be named a Citation Laureate 2023 for his pioneering work in synthetic gene circuits, which launched the field of syn-bio. Each year since 2002, the Citation Laureates program from Clarivate recognizes a small group of highly cited scientists and economists whose influence is comparable to that of past and future Nobel Prize winners.
James J. Collins named Citation LaureateTM 2023 in Chemistry is the Henri Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT. He is also a Core Founding Faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and an Institute Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His research group works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance. Professor Collins' patented technologies have been licensed by over 25 biotech, pharma and medical devices companies, and he has helped to launched a number of companies, including Sample6 Technologies, Synlogic and EnBiotix. He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Rhodes Scholarship, a MacArthur "Genius" Award, an NIH Director's Pioneer Award, as well as several teaching awards. Professor Collins is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, as well as a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.