Synthetic Genomics

The idea of building whole genomes is one of the eagerly anticipated promises of synthetic biology. Whole-scale genome engineering has the potential to create designer cells tailor made to serve as novel platforms for biotechnology innovations and applications. The design and de novo synthesis of genomes nonetheless remains a technically daunting challenge.


Years-long efforts by scientists to build a minimal cell, one with the least number of genes needed to sustain life, cumulated in the creation of the first synthetic organism with an artificial genome – Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 in 2010. After three cycles of (re-)design, synthesis and testing, syn3.0 was unveiled in 2016 which, at 531 kbp, has a genome that is smaller than any autonomously replicating cell found in nature.
Inevitably, scientific breakthroughs in synthetic prokaryotic systems aspire parallel advancements in eukaryotes. Having come a long way from its primary use as a fermentation agent in brewing and baking, yeast is currently an essential part of the biotechnology industry with its widespread use for the production of food ingredients, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and fuels. The first eukaryotic organism to have its full genome sequenced in 1996, yeast is also an important model organism for studying eukaryotic genetics and an ideal candidate to extend synthetic genomics beyond bacteria.

Synthetic Yeast 2.0

The Synthetic Yeast Genome Project (Sc2.0) is the world’s first synthetic eukaryotic genome project that aims to create a novel, rationalized version of the genome of the yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae. SynCTI is proud to be part of the international consortium embarked on the challenging but exciting task of building 16 designer synthetic chromosomes encompassing ~12 million base pairs of DNA. With each chromosome being synthesized simultaneously by research teams across the world, SynCTI joins leading academic and commercial institutions, including New York University, John Hopkins University, Tianjin University, Tsinghua University, University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, MacQuarie University, Genscript and the Beijing Genomic Institute, in a truly global concerted effort for the advancement of synthetic genomics.

Aided by an array of genome editing and bioinformatics tools, our group will work to refactor the assigned yeast chromosome XV in abidance to the three core design principles: maintenance of wild-type phenotype and fitness, assurance of genomic stability and enhancement of genetic flexibility. The Sc2.0 project will ultimately yield a synthetic yeast equipped with novel functionalities that will not only be a boon for the direct interrogation of basic science questions but also present a novel platform to usher in breakthroughs in contemporary medical and industrial biotechnologies.

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NUHS Summit Research Programme

Launched in October 2016 by the National University Health System (NUHS), the Summit Research Programme (SRP) is an initiative that seeks to achieve significant improvements in disease understanding and innovations in clinical practices that will improve healthcare and lead to societal benefits for Singapore. The SRP draws on the participation of academics and medical experts at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine as well as clinician-scientists from NUHS to form collaborative research programmes to better understand and develop treatments to some of the most challenging medical and health issues.

The pioneering batch of SRPs focuses on 5 fields of interest:
> Cancer
> Cardiovascular Disease
> Metabolic Disease
> Tuberculosis
> Synthetic Biology

Headed by Associate Professor Matthew Chang, the SRP – Synthetic Biology aims to develop new prebiotics and therapeutic chemicals as well as to establish novel microbiome therapy for disease treatment. Driven by shared goals, SynCTI effectively engages with clinician-scientists under the NUHS SRP to advance the translation of synthetic biology research into potential clinical applications.

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