Developing Standardized Cell-Free Platforms for Rapid Prototyping of Synthetic Biology Circuits and Pathways

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The goal of this project is to further advance standardized cell-free systems from engineered E. coli and other organisms for use in prototyping synthetic circuit and pathway designs. Such standardized systems will both explore the boundaries of cell-free prototyping and characterization, and enable more detailed understanding of key mechanisms, accelerating the usage and broader utility of cell-free systems in industry and academia. The long term vision for this project is to establish cell-free systems as a platform for implementation of synthetic biological circuits, pathways, and systems, where modular and complex biomolecular systems can be engineered in a systematic fashion. This project seeks to overcome some of the current limitations of cell-free systems through a combination of experimental characterization and computational modeling.

Current participants:

Additional participants:


  • Paul Freemont (Imperial College London)

Past participants:



The main objectives of this project are:

  • Development of well-understood, standardized TX-TL reaction systems that are suitable for prototyping circuits and pathways for a variety of cells
  • Characterization and modeling of complex synthetic biology components, circuits, and pathways using TX-TL that enable forward engineering
  • Development of new biochemical indicator components for use in TX-TL systems to achieve better understanding and more predictive models


  • Agency: NSF
  • Grant number: CBET-1903477
  • Start date: 1 Jul 2019
  • End date: 30 Jun 2023
  • Support: 1 graduate student
  • Reporting: Annual reports