Women at the Podium: Synthetic Biology: A New Therapeutic Platform

2016-05-04 12:00:00 2016-05-04 18:00:00 America/New_York Star Wars Day Party May the force be with you Tatooine Luke Skywalker luke@starwars.com
Jan 17
Women at the Podium: Synthetic Biology: A New Therapeutic Platform

Event Info

Event Date: 
Wednesday, January 17, 2024 - 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Event Contact

Columbia College Alumni Association

Beginning at the turn of the last century, the chemical industry began to introduce small molecule drugs, typically less than 100 atoms in size. The need for antibiotics spurred an explosion in the development of small molecule therapeutics during WWI and WWII. Today there are many innovations in small molecule therapeutics as life expectancy has significantly increased, and drug discovery has turned to the major causes of morbidity in the modern Western world, for example heart disease and cancer. A breakthrough in drug discovery came with the discovery of the DNA double helix and the field of Molecular Biology which made it possible to site-specifically cut and paste DNA by the 1970s. This meant that researchers could build not only small molecules but now also proteins on the order of 10,000 to 100,000 atoms in size. Antibodies and Antibody-Drug Conjugates quickly became competitive with small molecule therapeutics and revolutionized the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Today there is a second transformation in the scale of what scientists can build. The field of Synthetic Biology is allowing scientists to engineer living cells and use those living cells in situ at the site of the disease for continual delivery of the therapeutic. Professor Cornish will briefly present her research engineering living yeast as biosensors and therapeutics to illustrate this exciting new field and its fundamental and translational implications.

Virginia W. Cornish is the Helena Rubinstein Chair in the Department of Chemistry and a founding member of the Department of Systems Biology at Columbia University. Her research brings together modern methods in synthetic chemistry and DNA technology to expand the synthetic capabilities of living cells, and she is a pioneer in the field of yeast synthetic biology. Her current research focuses on translating state-of-the-art synthetic biology platforms to the clinic. She has over 100 research publications and issued patents and has been supported by grants from the NIH, NSF, DARPA, USDA and numerous private foundations. Virginia has been recognized by an NSF Career Award (2000), a Sloan Foundation Fellowship (2003), the Columbia College John Jay Award (2005), the Protein Society Irving Sigal Young Investigator Award (2009), the American Chemical Society Pfizer Award in Enzyme Chemistry (2009), and an HHMI Gilliam Adviser (2021). She graduated summa cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Biochemistry in 1991, where she did undergraduate research with Professor Ronald Breslow. She earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry with Professor Peter Schultz at the University of California at Berkeley and then was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Biology Department at M.I.T. under the guidance of Professor Robert Sauer. Virginia joined the faculty of the Chemistry Department at Columbia in 1999 and was promoted Associate Professor with tenure in 2004, Professor in 2007, and Helena Rubinstein Chair in 2011.

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