Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Microsoft Announces Synthetic Biology Grants

Microsoft Research (MSR) has announced the six winners of its inaugural grants in synthetic biology. The company issued a request for proposals a few months ago, seeking to identify outstanding research projects aimed at tackling the computational challenges in two areas of synthetic biology:
  • The re-engineering of natural biological pathways to produce interoperable, composed, biological parts; and
  • The development of tools and information repositories relating to the use of DNA in the fabrication of nanostructures and nanodevices

The company said that 49 proposals were submitted from 11 countries, including many leading researchers and labs in the field. Following external peer review, six proposals were chosen. They are as follows:

  • Computational Interchange Standards for Synthetic Biology -- Herbert Sauro, University of Washington
  • Design and Synthesis of Minimal and Persistent Protein Complexes -- David Green and Steven Skiena, Stony Brook University
  • BioStudio: A Collaborative Editing and Revision Control Environment for Synthetic Genomes -- Joel Bader and Jef Boeke, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Identification of Standard Gene Regulatory Sequences for Synthetic Biology -- Robert Holt, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Using programmable stacking bonds to combine DNA origami into larger, more complex, reconfigurable structures -- Paul Rothemund and Erik Winfree, California Institute of Technology
  • Noise Suppression and Next-Generation Cloning Vectors -- Johan Paulsson, Harvard University

Summaries of the six selected research abstracts can be found here.

In announcing the program in December, MSR Bioinformatics Program Manager Simon Mercer said the challenges faced by scientists today will be faced by business tomorrow and eventually by everyone. “Encouraging and participating in basic research helps us to better understand these problems and their potential solutions.” Synthetic biology is a particularly interesting field, Mercer said, because it has “the potential to provide insights into living systems, transform biotechnology and perhaps generate entirely new industries.”

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