Department of Genetics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The ability to rationally design biological systems holds tremendous promise for applications in medicine, manufacturing, energy, and the environment. As biological complexity and evolution can pose threats to the ease and stability of an engineering approach, emerging principles of biological design have urged abstraction and standardization of biological modules with defined functions. However, the power of biology as a design substrate lies first and foremost in the rich diversity and complexity of evolved biological systems. Instead of flattening and eliminating such diversity, can we instead employ our ever-deepening understanding of processes that drive diversity and evolutionary change as tools for synthetic biology design? This dissertation explores several such design principles and platforms for synthetic biology--protein domains that transfer high-energy electrons, cyanobacteria, plants, and cheese serve as physical platforms, while gene recombination, cellular cooperation, and personalization emerge as conceptual platforms. A more integrated and biological approach to synthetic biology has potential to lead to robust designs with multiple future applications.