Jake Wintermute, PhD

Systems & Synthetic Biology

About Me

My Short Bio

I am a synthetic biology teacher and researcher currently based at the CRI in Paris, France.

I come from the United States, where I did my thesis work in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard University. I worked in Pam Silver’s lab, studying metabolic engineering and microbial community interactions. Before that I was an undergraduate at New York University, learning about biology and computer science.

I like research projects that are practical, elegant, beautiful or fun. I’m working to develop new antibiotics for tuberculosis and other neglected microbial diseases. I study the effects of high-intensity visible light on bacterial cells. I’m interested in how we might re-engineer the skin microbiome to change or improve human body odor. I wonder about what causes human aging and how the negative effects could be reduced.

I also think about how to democratize new biotechnologies. I want genetic engineering to benefit all the people of the world, not just the lucky few who currently practice it. How do we bring the power of DNA to people who don’t have it yet? How do we get academics and industry professionals to care about opinions that come from outside?

My Projects

Synthetic Biology One

Synthetic Biology One is a free, open online course in genetic engineering and DNA Design. It is hosted as a “MOOC” at syntheticbiology1.com, complete with quizzes, protocols, games and supplementary materials. Or if you prefer you can just watch the videos on our YouTube channel.

The House of Transgenes

I lead a research group at the CRI in Paris, supported by the long-term CRI Fellows program. My team specializes in systems and synthetic biology approaches to drug discovery, particularly for tuberculosis and other neglected microbial diseases. But the CRI is a pretty free-wheeling place and we keep getting pulled into new collaborations. Lately I’m into:

  • High intensity photobiology.
  • Engineering the skin microbiome.
  • Course-course interactions in online learning.
  • Machine learning for biological model discovery.
  • The mechanisms of human and bacterial aging.
  • Cheap tools for detecting GMOs.

My CRI Team website maintains an active list of my group’s interests and open positions.

The Free DNA Declaration

Which new biotechnologies should we be working on? Who will control the new life forms and who will benefit from them? Right now, only a small number of powerful people get to answer these questions.

The Free DNA Declaration proposes a new way of doing science that prioritizes transparency, collaboration and active public participation. This is not “we need to tell people why they are stupid to oppose GMOs.” This is giving regular people the tools to educate themselves and then putting them in positions of real power and influence.

The best future for synbio is the one where lots of people work together to make wise decisions. The worst one is dominated by selfishness and elitism. If you support the ideas described in the declaration, please add your signature and share it with anyone who cares about science.


Visit Me In Real Life

I’m always looking for new friends and collaborators. Especially reach out to me if you want to teach or research together.

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