Biological Sciences

Events and seminars

EngBio Seminar - To cell-free or not to cell-free: an emerging question for engineering biology

Simon Moore (Queen Mary University, London)

20th June 2024 at 9:30am [Download iCalendar / .ics file]

C.H Waddington Building, Seminar room 1.08

The Moore cell-free synthetic biology group has a broad interest in natural product biosynthesis and antimicrobial resistance. In this talk, I aim to discuss the relative strengths and limitations of the emerging use of cell-free systems within academic and industrial engineering biology research.

First, I will share our recent research on the biosynthesis of two distinct natural product pathways where we are leveraging the strengths of both cell-free and microbial cell approaches to elucidate enzyme function, as well as engineer biosynthesis. Specifically, I will share our findings on uncovering several new enzymes involved in modified indole biosynthesis, as well as engineering over 20 new-to-nature indolocarbazole natural products, with potential applications for biomedicine or sustainable pigments.

Second, our group has a major focus on developing bacterial cell-free gene expression systems for rapid and combinatorial engineering of peptide, protein, and small molecule biosynthesis1–4, where we are collaborating with UK Health Security Agency and industry (e.g., Syngenta), for combating human and crop diseases, respectively. A significant part of the talk will discuss our recent development of using cell-free systems as a tool to elucidate antibiotic resistance in disease-causing bacteria, as well as the potential of developing non-standard antimicrobials5.


1.    Li, J., Kwon, Y.-C., Lu, Y. & Moore, S. J. Editorial: Cell-Free Synthetic Biology. Front Bioeng Biotechnol 9, 799122 (2021).

2.    Moore, S. J., Lai, H.-E., Li, J. & Freemont, P. S. Streptomyces cell-free systems for natural product discovery and engineering. Nat. Prod. Rep. (2022) doi:10.1039/d2np00057a.

3.    Nagappa, L. K. et al. A ubiquitous amino acid source for prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell-free transcription-translation systems. Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. 10, 992708 (2022).

4.    Moore, S. J. et al. A Streptomyces venezuelae Cell-Free Toolkit for Synthetic Biology. ACS Synth. Biol. 10, 402–411 (2021).

5.    Chengan, K. et al. A cell-free strategy for host-specific profiling of intracellular antibiotic sensitivity and resistance. npj Antimicrobials and Resistance (2023) doi:10.1038/s44259-023-00018-z.

Host Lynne Regan (IQB3, SBS)

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