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Engineering an E.Coli with an Orthogonal Genetic code




HST: Health Sciences and Technology

Faculty Supervisor:

George Church

Faculty email:


Apply by:

Feb 24, 2020


Kamesh Narasimhan: Kamesh_Narasimhan@hms.harvard.edu

Project Description

This is a good opportunity if you are interested in synthetic biology projects, with potential for altering one of the oldest languages (billion year) in the world ----the language of the triplet genetic codon that dictates how proteins are made by all living cells. The long-term goal of the project is to build a living cell with an Orthogonal genetic code and at which point, the cell may be considered to be half-artificial life. Proteins with facile and augmented chemical properties can be generated by genetic incorporation of non-standard amino acids (nsAA) -- beyond the lexicon of the 20 standard amino acids. The nsAAs can be used to enhance catalytic activity of enzymes, and enable specific protein-protein, protein-ligand interactions. The Church lab at Harvard Med School has generated a special E.coli strain (C321) which enables one unique nsAA to be efficiently incorporated. However incorporation of multiple, distinct, consecutive nsAAs is still a challenge. In so far as the objectives of the spring/summer project, you will have the opportunities to work with me (a postdoc in the Church Lab at HMS) on several aspects of the above problem that could excite you : i.e generating Ribosome variants, engineering E.coli strains, developing fluorescent reporters, developing selection markers and engineering tRNA synthetases. We will also be doing some protein biochemistry, expression and purification. Please email a copy of your CV and your research interests before Feb 24, 2020 to Kamesh_Narasimhan@hms.harvard.edu.


The ideal candidate will have experience in primer designing, molecular cloning and basic biochemistry methods. Data visualization, project management and data organization skills will be an added advantage. The project would need about 2-3 months of time commitment.