Constructing whole-cell bacterial biosensors that compute

Chris Barnes (primary)
Cell and Developmental Biology
Attila Csikasz-Nagy (secondary)
Randal Centre for Cell and Molecular Biophysics


Using synthetic biology, we can now engineer bacteria into whole-cell biosensors where sensing, transduction and output occur within the living cell. Applications include the detection of harmful environmental agents, bioprocess monitoring, and detecting medically relevant biomarkers. As we move towards more sophisticated applications, sensors that have multiple inputs and more complex information processing capabilities will be needed. In this project, you will construct biological computers formed from engineered bacterial populations. Information from multiple biosensor inputs will be integrated and processed by the biocomputer, the output of which will be spatial patterning.


Two New Plasmid Post-segregational Killing Mechanisms for the Implementation of Synthetic Gene Networks in Escherichia coli. iScience. 2019 Apr 26;14:323-334.

Synthetic Biology and Engineered Live Biotherapeutics: Toward Increasing System Complexity. Cell Systems. 2018 Jul 25;7(1):5-16.

Computing with biological switches and clocks, Natural Computing 2018; 17(4): 761–779.

Molecules, cells and industrial biotechnology
Area of Biology
Techniques & Approaches
BiophysicsImage ProcessingMathematics / StatisticsMicroscopy / ElectrophysiologyMolecular BiologySimulation / Modelling