Synthetic Biology
The Technology Engine of the 21st Century

Pamela Silver
Adams Professor of Biochemistry & Systems Biology
Department of Systems Biology
Harvard University Medical School
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering

Sponsored by Millen, White, Zelano & Branigan, PC

2348th Meeting Abstract
Friday, May 8, 2015, 8:00 PM


During the 20th century scientists elucidated much of the fundamental basis for life,  culminating, in a sense, with sequencing the human genome.   We now have detailed knowledge of the inner workings of cells, tissues and organisms.  Much as the development of synthetic chemistry fueled the development of the chemical industry, and the development of microchips fueled the computer industry, as a result of our knowledge of the fundamentals of living organisms and the recent development of methods for manipulating them, we are poised on the beginning of a new industrial revolution based on biology that will impact health, agriculture, chemical production, carbon capture and energy.   We will use the foundations of biology to engineer cells to perform useful functions, much as one would program a computer.  We will, for example, design cells to act as factories for therapeutics and to cleanly generate a range of chemicals. The social and political ramifications of this disruptive technology are vast, and engineering biology with be the defining technology and pose many central challenges of the 21st century.  This lecture will present the technologies and discuss their implications.

Biographical Sketch:

Pamela Silver
Pamela Silver

Pamela Silver is Professor of Systems Biology at the Harvard Medical School and The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.  She co-directs the Harvard undergraduate team for the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM), a program that she initiated.  She was a founder of Harvard Medical Schools' Department of Systems Biology, served as the first Director of Harvard University's Doctoral Program in Systems Biology, and was one of the first members of the Harvard University Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.  Previously, Pamela was Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.  Before coming to Harvard, Pamela was Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University.

Pamela  discovered the first nuclear localization sequence (NLS)and in subsequent studies elucidated many of the mechanisms of nuclear localization.  She characterized the receptor for NLSs, discovered the first eukaryotic DnaJ chaperone, and carried out early genome wide studies of protein interactions within the nucleus.  In addition, she and Bill Sellers discovered molecules that block nuclear export and formed Karyopharm Therapeutics to develop their therapeutic potential.  Pamela was among the first scientists to use GFP-tagged proteins to study protein-specific processes in living cells.  Her current projects relate to reprogramming eukaryotic cells, novel therapeutic design strategies, and bioengineering approaches to harnessing energy from sunlight and for capturing carbon to prevent its release to the atmosphere.

She has served on numerous government and private advisory panels including the NAS/NRC Study on Network Science, the OSD/NA Biodefense Workshop, the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund, the Novartis Oncology Program, the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Paul Glenn Institute for Aging Research, Exxon Mobile Research, the Council of the American Society for Cell Biology, the Committee for Women in Cell Biology and she has presented to several members of Congress.  She also has served on numerous editorial boards, and was the Editor of Molecular Biology of the Cell.

Pamela has received many awards and honors.  To name a few, she was appointed Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School in 2012, received a NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, an NIH MERIT award and an Innovation Award from BIO, was named a Basil O’Connor Research Scholar of the March of Dimes and an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association, was named a Radcliff Fellow, delivered an NIH Directors' Lecture, and been named one of the Top 20 Global Synthetic Biology Influencers.

Pamela earned her BS in Chemistry and PhD in Biochemistry from the University of California.  She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University as a Fellow of the American Cancer Society and of The Medical Foundation.

She is an avid runner and sailor.

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