New technologies can help us address the challenges facing humanity, including food security, sustainable agriculture and emerging diseases. In my laboratory, we develop and apply genome engineering and synthetic biology approaches and harness engineering and evolution principles to design and build genetic networks and thus engineer organisms with improved traits for key applications. This includes crop improvement, biomanufacturing and diagnostics. In my talk, I will provide examples of our technological advances in these key areas.
Second, I will highlight our research on establishing synthetic directed evolution to unlock trait engineering and improvement, describing how we use CRISPR enzymes to develop technologies for localized sequence diversification to evolve, discover, expand and expedite improving and developing traits of interest.
Third, I will describe our work using CRISPR enzymes to develop point-of-care diagnostics for emerging diseases, including SARS-CoV-2, discussing our efforts to engineer existing CRISPR-Cas enzymes, build chimeric CRISPR enzymes and discover novel CRISPR enzymes to build modules for point-of-care SARS-CoV2 diagnostics that can be reprogrammed to detect multiple pathogens.
Professor Magdy Mahfouz received his Ph.D. in molecular genetics from The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA. He subsequently conducted his industry-funded postdoctoral studies in microbiology at the College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, focusing on identifying anticancer cell-penetrating peptide molecules from microbial sources. Mahfouz is an Associate Professor of Bioengineering, Plant Science and Bioscience at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
Mahfouz is the principal investigator of the Laboratory for Genome Engineering and Synthetic Biology. His research group focuses on developing genome engineering and synthetic biology technologies and applications for crop bioengineering, biomanufacturing and diagnostics. His laboratory employs molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, microbiology and nanoscience approaches to develop disruptive technologies for rewriting genome sequences for trait engineering, biosensing of nucleic acids of pathogens or disease markers, as well as other analytes, and the use of plants as a chassis for molecular biomanufacturing of select chemicals and therapeutics.