By mimicking the Darwinian evolution in the test tube, directed evolution has become a powerful and indispensable tool for the design and engineering of biological systems including proteins, pathways, and genomes for fundamental research and biotechnological applications. In this talk, I will give a historical account of the directed evolution field and discuss the challenges and opportunities in directed evolution. I will highlight our recent work on the development and application of novel directed evolution tools for pathway engineering and genome engineering. In addition, I will introduce a new directed evolution strategy that combines machine learning and automation for biosystems design.
Dr. Huimin Zhao is the Steven L. Miller Chair of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and professor of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, and bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He received his B.S. degree in Biology from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1992 and his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1998 under the guidance of Nobel Laureate Dr. Frances Arnold. Prior to joining UIUC in 2000, he was a project leader at the Industrial Biotechnology Laboratory of the Dow Chemical Company. He was promoted to full professor in 2008.
Dr. Zhao has authored and co-authored over 330 research articles and over 25 issued and pending patent applications with several being licensed by industry. In addition, he has given over 400 plenary, keynote, or invited lectures. Twenty-five (25) of his former graduate students and postdocs are pursuing academic careers. Dr. Zhao received numerous research and teaching awards and honors such as Enzyme Engineering Award (2019), Marvin Johnson Award (2018), Charles Thom Award (2016), and Elmer Gaden Award (2014). His primary research interests are in the development and applications of synthetic biology tools to address society’s most daunting challenges in health, energy, and sustainability, and in the fundamental aspects of enzyme catalysis, cell metabolism, gene regulation, and cell differentiation.
Departments of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Bioengineering, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, and Center for Biophysics and Computational Biology,
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801