Therapeutic Cells

The human body is home to a diverse community of symbiotic, commensal and pathogenic microorganisms, collectively known as microbiota. Disruption of the homeostatic relationship between microbiota and host, or dysbiosis, can result in maladies in human health ranging from metabolism to immunity. Cell-based therapeutics seek to leverage the intimate host-microbe associations as a platform technology to improve human health and treat diseases. Indeed, cell therapy is regarded as the fourth and final pillar of healthcare after pharmaceuticals, biologics and medical devices.


Early therapeutic approaches involved the manipulation of commensal microbial composition through diet and the use of antibiotics, probiotics and prebiotics. With the advent of new tools in synthetic biology, we envisage the next generation of cell-based therapeutics to involve engineering of the microbial genome (microbiome) to create recombinant microbes that are producers and targeted delivery vehicles of beneficial molecules that can alleviate metabolic disorders, or antimicrobials that can selectively eliminate deleterious microbes. Much of today’s research is focused on gut biota where the greatest abundance and diversity of microbes are found but scientific interest is steadily extending to other bodily niches, including the skin as well the oral, nasal and vaginal cavities for their immense therapeutic potential.

Deliberate modulation of microbiota-host metabolic and immune interactions remains a technically complex challenge that will require exquisite knowledge of microbial ecology and in-depth understanding of the cross-talk between host and microbiota. Our research group aims to elucidate the biological mechanisms behind microbiota-host interactions through bioprospecting and omic analyses of the human microbiota. Working synergistically with clinicians, immunologists and microbiologists from the NUS Synthetic Biology consortium, we ambition to reprogram the human microbiota into functional probiotics with prophylactic and therapeutic properties against human infectious diseases and immune and metabolic disorders, thereon translating microbiome therapeutics into real-world clinical applications.

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