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Alumni Lecture 2: E. Terry Papoutsakis, University of Delaware, Title: “Metabolic Engineering AND/OR Synthetic Biology for improved biotechnological production: promises and realities”


Friday, November 16, 2018 - 1:00pm


Marriott Center, Campus Center (11th Floor)


A reception will follow in the Marriott Center, 11th Floor, Campus Center



Metabolic engineering (ME) emerged as an autonomous research activity in the mid to late 1980s, at the point where genetic manipulation of cellular pathways became possible.  Both experimental and computational tools were developed over the next 20 years to the point that one could confidently undertake the development of an engineered organism to produce a novel chemical or improve the production of a native metabolite. Industrial processes slowly emerged, and the field achieved increased recognition and respect. ME should not be confused with the development of genetically modified animal cells to express a transgene for producing therapeutic or diagnostic proteins, an activity that developed in parallel with ME, but led to the enormous, in impact and value, biomanufacturing industry to produce protein therapeutics. Some 15-20 years later, in the early 2000s, Synthetic Biology (SB) emerged as another enterprise based on the ability to synthesize large pieces of DNA and modify (the new word now was “edit”) DNA. In the beginning, there was a marked confusion: was SB different from ME, and if so, how and why? As the field moved forward, a combination of “political” and scientific advances gave SB a distinct character, but yet with large overlap with ME. SB became more sophisticated on engineering complex traits based on engineered regulatory components and focusing largely in non-pathway dependent traits, but also on generating precise DNA editing tools. Since then, there has been an increasing merging of SB and ME, and now, also a foray of both into biomanufacturing, a term still reserved for protein and cell/gene therapy products. I will discuss what is the present reality in terms of practical applications.



Eleftherios (Terry) Papoutsakis is the Unidel Eugene DuPont Professor in the Dept. of Chem. & Biomolecular Engineering & the Dept. of Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware. Papoutsakis’ group is active and has made important contributions in the areas of clostridia genetics and metabolic engineering with emphasis recently in syntrophic co-cultures and synthetic methylotrophy; animal-cell biotechnology; & stem-cell bioengineering with emphasis on hematopoietic engineering and the use of extracellular vesicles.

Dr. Papoutsakis has been recognized by numerous awards, including election to National Academy of Engineering (USA) in 2018, the 2017 American Chemical Society (ACS) E. V. Murphree Award in Industrial and Engineering Chemistry, the 2013 DIC Wang for Excellence in Biochemical Engineering, SBE/AIChE (Soc. Biological Eng.; Amer. Institute of Chem. Engineers), the 2012 James E. Bailey Award, SBE/AIChE; election as Fellow of ACS (2011), the 2010 Metabolic Engineering Award, the 2005 Amgen Biochemical Engineering Award, the 2004 Merck Cell Culture Engineering Award & the 2003 Alpha Chi Sigma AIChE Award. He received his BS/MS in Chemical Engineering from the National Technical University of Athens; MS/PhD in Chemical Engineering from Purdue University. He has supervised over 60 PhD, 30 MS, 31 postdoctoral and 65 undergraduate research students, funded by over $37 million in grants from NIH, NSF, DOE, ARPA-E, ONR, ARO & EPA.                                                        

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