Monday, November 16, 2015 - 10:30am - 11:30am
Keller 3-180
Mustafa Khammash (ETH Zürich)
Norbert Wiener’s 1948 Cybernetics presented a vision unifying the study of control and communication in the animal and the machine. Predating the discovery of the structure of DNA and the ensuing molecular biology revolution, applications in the life sciences at the time were limited. More than 60 years later, the confluence of modern genetic manipulation techniques, advanced measurement technologies, and powerful analysis methods is making it feasible for the first time to use systems and control notions for regulating cellular processes using control systems that are implemented either in silico or genetically (in vivo). Realizing the vast potential of these developments requires the creation of new theory and methods for cellular control--a cybernetics for the gene age.

In this presentation we outline some research problems concerned with the analysis and design of control systems for the precise control of living cells. Using computer control coupled with optogenetic and flow cytometry technologies, we show that automated feedback loops can achieve precise and extremely robust control of gene expression in living cells. We describe how synthetic molecular control systems can be realized in vivo to achieve autonomous regulation of gene expression. Finally, we present a new control theory for the integral control of gene expression in a stochastic setting. We show that such stochastic integral control utilizes just a few molecules to achieve robust steady-state tracking and perfect adaptation and, remarkably, that it leads to closed-loop systems that are more robust than their deterministic counterparts.