Leo Chou—IBBME Special Seminar

May 24, 2018 @ 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
RS 412
164 College St
Toronto, ON M5S 3E2

Molecular systems engineering with DNA: supramolecular assembly meets synthetic biology

Leo Chou

Leo Chou, NSERC Banting Postdoctoral Fellow
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University


The field of DNA nanotechnology uses Watson-Crick pairing of nucleic acids to construct intricate molecular shapes and program dynamic behaviours.

In this talk I will discuss how this growing toolset for precise 3D nanofabrication can be applied towards the synthetic reconstitution of biological systems outside of living cells, and how this provides the basis towards realizing artificial molecular machines with exciting biological and medical applications.

In the first part of the talk, I will describe on-going efforts to construct a virus-inspired, biosynthetic RNA-extruding nanofactory. The nanofactory spatially coordinates the activities of two enzymes and their DNA templates within a 150 x 60 nm “DNA origami” nanocapsule. By spatially confining these enzymes, the nanofactory enables more efficient polymerization of RNA, and with more engineering control than its molecular counterparts, and may one day find application as artificial organelles for the on-site manufacturing of RNA therapeutics directly within living cells.

In the second part of talk, I will describe the use of DNA to program the transcriptional activity of the T7 phage RNA polymerase. This capability provides a basis for scalable design of synthetic transcriptional circuits in cell-free environments using DNA as “synthetic transcription factors”, thus opening the possibility to build custom-designed “software” for future synthetic biology applications such portable diagnostics and therapeutic manufacturing.


Leo Chou is currently a NSERC Banting postdoctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute in Boston, where his work explores the design of DNA based molecular devices for biomedical applications.

Before moving to Boston, Leo completed his PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto, where his work focused on developing nanotechnologies for the detection and treatment of cancer.