Synthetic Biology Group, Professor Timothy Lu



By tweaking bacteriophage genomes, MIT team creates a new weapon to combat infection. <<MIT News>>


Engineers program human and bacterial cells to keep a record of complex molecular events. <<MIT News>>


Screen of human proteins reveals some with antimicrobial power. <<MIT News>>


Synthetic biologist hopes to develop treatments for cancer and other diseases <<MIT News>>


Biological engineers identify genes that protect against protein linked to Parkinson’s disease. <<MIT News>>


Engineers program human cells to store complex histories in their DNA <<MIT News>>


Congratulations to Tim, Chris, Alex & Mark on this recent publication in Cell Systems!

Congratulations to the Lu lab on this recent publication in Nature Biotechnology!


Chemical & Engineering News article on “Giving Bacteria A Virus”, December 8, 2014.


Nature Reviews Microbiology article on “Tailor-Made Poisons for Pathogens”


Prof. Lu brief talk on Broad View


Congratulations to Chao Zhong for his paper on self-assembling underwater adhesives!

Congratulations to Robert Citorik and Mark Mimee for their paper on RNA-guided nucleases as targeted antimicrobials!


Congratulations to Allen Cheng for his paper on massively parallel combinatorial genetics and antibiotic resistance!




Bacteriophage-based synthetic biology for the study of infectious diseases




Congratulations to Lior Nissim, Sam Perli, and team for their work on multiplexed gene circuits with RNAi and CRISPR/Cas!


Congratulations to Allen Chen and team for their new Nature Materials paper!


Congratulations to Oliver Purcell for his new ACS Synthetic Biology paper!


MIT News article on “MIT team receives $10.4 million biomanufacturing grant from DARPA“, September 18, 2013.


MIT News article on “An easier way to control genes”, September 3, 2013.


The Lu lab publishes a new paper on CRISPR-based transcription factors in ACS Synthetic Biology, August 26, 2013.


Bijan’s paper in ACS Synthetic Biology makes the cover!


Congratulations to Oliver Purcell and Bonny Jain for their new Chaos paper!


Congratulations to Ramiz Daniel and Jacob Rubens for their new Nature paper!


The Lu lab publishes a new paper in Trends in Biotechnology on engineered bacteriophage diagnostics.



Allen Cheng receives an NDSEG Fellowship! Congratulations!


Prof. Lu receives an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Prize.


The Lu lab publishes a new paper in Nature Biotechnology on integrated logic and memory in living cells. Congratulations to Piro Siuti and John Yazbek!


The Lu lab is featured in Nature Medicine. [pdf]


The Lu lab publishes a new paper in Cell.


Professor Lu receives the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).


Professor Lu is named Henry L. and Grace Doherty Professor in Ocean Utilization.


Allen Cheng publishes his first paper in Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering with the Lu lab.


UROP Chris Yoon publishes his first paper in ACS Nano with the Lu lab.


Graduate student Jacob Rubens wins an NSF Fellowship

Graduate student Allen Chen wins a Hertz Fellowship


Professor Lu receives an NIH New Innovator Award


Professor Lu receives Best Paper in the Biomedical Technologies Sessions and Bronze Medal (2nd Overall) in the 27th Army Science Conference


Professor Lu is named to the Technology Review’s TR35 Top Innovators Under 35.


Professor Lu receives the Leon Reznick Memorial Prize from Harvard Medical School.


The Synthetic Biology Group is awarded an ONR MURI grant for “Utilizing Synthetic Biology to Create Programmable Micro-Bio-Robots”


Selected Media

MIT researchers built an ingestible sensor equipped with genetically engineered bacteria that can diagnose bleeding in the stomach, and possibly other gastrointestinal ailments <<Wired>>

Bacteria sealed inside gloves or bandages are programmed to light up when they detect a certain chemical <<STAT News>>

Recording the secret lives of cells <<The Boston Globe>>

The Scientist article on Film Stars – Engineered bacteria can shape electricity-conducting nanowiresJune 1, 2014

NPR Science Friday on “Engineering Life Through Synthetic Biology”, March 28, 2014.

Science article on “Synthetic Biologists Design ‘Living Materials’ That Build Themselves”, March 27, 2014.

Wired article on “Scientists Tweak Genes to Give Bacteria Electrical Superpowers”, March 24, 2014.


Quartz article on “The solar panels of the future could be grown from bacteria”, March 23, 2014.

MIT News article on “Brighter future for bacteria detection”, March 19, 2014.

USA Today article on “Can plants take on new roles with tiny carbon materials?”, March 23, 2014.

MIT News article on “Engineers design ‘living materials’”, March 23, 2014.

Boston Globe article on “MIT researchers aim to make drugs on the battlefield”, October 7, 2013.

Harvard Medicine article on “Public Enemies – Scientists get pathogens to spill their secrets”, Summer 2013.

The Scientist article on “Engineering Life”, August 1, 2013.

Science Careers article on “Computer Scientists Get Wet”, June 13, 2013.

ScienceNews article on “Analog circuits boost power in living computers”, June 1,2013.

Popular Science on “This Bacterium Can Do Division, Compute Logarithms And Take Square Roots, June 1, 2013.

The Scientist article on “Cell-Based Computing Goes Analog”, May 20, 2013.

The Register article on “Biological chips go analog to boost efficiency”, May 15, 2013.

Nature News and Views on “It’s an analog world”, May 15, 2013.

MIT News Article on “Cells as living calculators”, May 15, 2013.

Science Perspectives on “Recombinatorial Logic”, May 3, 2013.

Scientific American article on “Can Synthetic Biology Keep Your Food Safe?”, April 25, 2013.

The Scientist article on “Living Transistors”, April 1, 2013.

NPR Morning Edition article on “Tiny DNA Switches Aim To Revolutionize ‘Cellular’ Computing”, March 29, 2013. [audio]

ScienceNow article on “A Computer Inside a Cell”, March 28, 2013.

Technology Review article on “How to Make a Computer from a Living Cell”, March 28, 2013.

MIT News article on “Jarillo-Herrero, Lu named ONR Young Investigators”, March 28, 2013.

The Chronicle of Higher Education article on “Constructing Synthetic Biology, One Breadboard at a Time”, March 7, 2013.

The Scientist article on “DNA Machines Inch Forward”, March 5, 2013

The Chronicle of Higher Education article on “Synthetic biology comes down to earth”, March 4, 2013.

Nature Reviews Genetics Research Highlight on “A circuit to remember”, February 26, 2013.

BioTechniques article on “The Smartest Cells in the World”, February 18, 2013

Wired article on MIT-developed genetic circuits have logic and memory functions, February 14, 2013

MIT News article on “Cell circuits remember their history”, February 2013.

The Register article on “Boffins make bio-chip breakthrough”, February 13, 2013

Nature News article on “How to turn living cells into computers”, February 13, 2013

ScienceNews article on “Factory of Life”, January 12, 2013.

Nature Methods article on “Programming transcription”, September 2012

Nature Biotechnology Research Highlights: “Expanding the engineer’s toolkit”, September 2012

Nature Medicine News Feature on “Turning a new phage”, September 2012

Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News highlight on “Synthetic biology expands beyond bacteria”, August 2012

Nature Education Scitable blog Bio 2.0 post on “Modular transcription factors for eukaryotic synthetic biology”, August 2012

NextBigFuture article on “19 new transcription factors break bottleneck that limited synthetic biology complexity”, August 2012

KurzweilAI article on “Expanding synthetic biology’s toolkit for creating genetic circuits”, August 2012

Quantum Day article on “Designing circuits using synthetic biology”, August 2012

MIT News article on “Researchers build a toolbox for synthetic biology”, August 2012

“President Obama Honors Early-Career Scientists and Engineers”, White House, July 31, 2012. (

“5 Questions for the Microbial Puppet-Master”, Discover Magazine, September 11, 2011. (

“It’s the DNA that counts,” Science, vol. 324, no. 5931, pp. 1156-1157, May 29, 2009.

“Cellular Counter Brings Computer Programming to Life,” Wired, May 28, 2009.

“Engineered phage foil antibiotic resistance,” Nature Biotechnology Research Highlights, vol. 27, no. 4,   p. 348, April 2009.

“Viral Bacteria-Killers,” National Public Radio Science Friday, March 6, 2009.

“Novophage Forming to Combat Antibiotic Resistance with Engineered Viruses,” Xconomy, March 5, 2009.

“Engineered Viruses Could Battle Superbugs,” U.S. News and World Report, March 4, 2009.

“Engineered Viruses Could Battle Superbugs,”, March 3, 2009.

“Engineered viruses fight bacteria: Viruses that target bacteria could help give antibiotics a boost,” Nature News, March 2, 2009.

“Engineered viruses help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology News, March 2, 2009.

“Engineered viruses can help fight antibiotic resistance: Viruses attack bacterial defenses,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Release, March 2, 2009.

“Genome Technology Names 2008 ’Tomorrow’s PIs,’” Genome Technology Magazine Press Release, December 8, 2008.

“MIT students take top prizes in national inventors’ contest: Lu awarded $25,000 grand prize, Schroll takes top undergraduate honors,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Release, November 21, 2008.

“Bacteriophage, Plastic Steel and Round Robots Prove Winners,” Popular Science, November 21, 2008.

“Winners Announced in 2008 Collegiate Inventors Competition,” National Inventors Hall of Fame Collegiate Inventors Competition Press Release, November 20, 2008.

“Beating Bacteria,” Science, vol. 320, no. 5872, p. 29, April 4, 2008. (

“Antibiotic-resistance work gets $30,000 prize,” Boston Globe, February 28, 2008.  (

“Synthetic bacteria-fighting organisms win Lemelson-MIT prize,” CNET News, February 27, 2008.  (

“MIT Student Honored for Antibiotics Work,” Associated Press, February 27, 2008.  (

“MIT student wins Lemelson award for work on infections,” New England Cable News, February 27, 2008.(

“Looking for Chinks in the Armor of Bacterial Biofilms,” PLoS Biology, vol. 5, no. 11, pp. e304-e307, November 13, 2007.

“Engineering Phage to Target Biofilm Matrices Enhances Disruption,” Microbe, vol. 2, no. 10, pp. 475-476, November 2007.

“Blasting Biofilms,” MIT Technology Review, p. M10, November December 2007.

“Slime battles, funding figures and moving boxes,” Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology, July 20, 2007.  (

“Scientists engineer viruses to destroy bacteria,” MSNBC, July 9, 2007.  (

“Slimebusting virus could clean medical kit,” New Scientist, vol. 2611, p. 26, July 7, 2007.  (

“Team builds viruses to combat harmful ‘biofilms’:  A big step forward for synthetic biology,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Release, July 6, 2007.

“HST Student Timothy Lu Builds Viruses to Combat Harmful ‘Biofilms’,” Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology News, July 6, 2007.  (

“Biotechnology:  Film ends badly,” Nature Research Highlights, vol. 448, pp. 4-5, July 5, 2007.  (

“Breaking up (biofilms) is no longer hard to do,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences This Week in PNAS, vol. 104, no. 27, pp. 11121-11222, July 3, 2007.  (

“Blasting Biofilms with Viruses:  Specially tailored viruses could eradicate chronic bacterial infections,” MIT Technology Review, July 2, 2007.

“Scientists report win against bacterial biofilms,” White Coat Notes, July 2, 2007.  (

“Biowarfare:  Engineered virus can invade bacterial film,” Science News, vol. 171, no. 26, p. 404, June 30, 2007.

“Biologists Modify Virus to Help Fight Bacteria,” Associated Content, June 29, 2007.  (

“Bacterial Biofilms No Match for Engineered Virus,” Howard Hughes Medical Institute Press Release, June 25, 2007.

“MIT debuts ‘bionic ear processor’ for hearing impaired,” EE Times, February 8, 2005. (

“‘Lab-grown’ blood among plans vying for MIT $50K win,” Boston Business Journal, p. 32, March 26 April 1, 2004.

“WHAT’S NEXT: Analog Over Digital? For a Better Ear Implant, Yes,” New York Times, Section G, p. 8, col. 1, May 29, 2003.

“Siebel Systems Announces Siebel Scholars Class of 2003,” Siebel Systems, Inc. Press Release, October 8, 2002.