Elise Cachat

  • School of Biological Sciences
  • UK Centre for Mammalian synthetic Biology
  • Institute of Quantitative Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology (IQB3)

Contact details



Rm. 2.36, Michael Swann building
Kings Buildings
Max Born Crescent

Post code


2018               Lecturer in Synthetic Biology, University of Edinburgh, School of Biological Sciences

2016-2018    Temporary Lectureship in Biotechnology, University of Edinburgh, School of Biological Sciences

2009-2016    Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Medical School

2006-2009    Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh

2005               Research Assistant, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

2001-2005    PhD Microbiology, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

2001                MPhil Organic Chemistry, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

1999-2000    Research Assistant, Aventis Cropscience, Lyon, France


Undergraduate teaching

The Microbial World 2 ( year 2, lecturer)

Patterning in Development (Hons, lecturer)

Postgraduate teaching

MSc Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology:

- Tools for Synthetic Biology (course organiser)

- The Origins of Synthetic Biology (course organiser)

- Applications of Synthetic Biology (lecturer)

- iGEM OG team (co-/supervisor)


Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Current PhD students supervised

Sofija Semeniuk

Ugne Baronaite

Iseabail Farquhar


Research summary

Mammalian synthetic biology

We aim at engineering new synthetic gene circuits in mammalian cells: sensing modules, reporting modules and actuation modules (e.g. locomotion, apoptosis). Cells endowed with these new functions can be used to sense the presence of specific stimuli in their environment and report or act upon it.

Current research interests

Synthetic communication in mammalian cells: We engineer mammalian cells with sensing (synthetic receptors) and reporting circuits to detect specific cell-cell interactions. These synthetic communication systems allow us to study interactions between specific cell types both in vitro and in vivo, shading new light on intercellular processes. Interkingdom cell fusion: Using a synthetic approach, we aim at engineering fusion between yeast and mammalian cells through the use of biological fusogens. The project is part of an interdisciplinary collaboration with artists (SymbioticA, University of Western Australia) and social scientists (SynthSys , University of Edinburgh), exploring the questions cross-kingdom fusion raises (Szymanski et al. 2020, Front. Bioeng. Biotechnol. 8:715).

Past research interests

Synthetic morphology & patterning: We engineer mammalian cells to self-organize into specific structures and patterns. We built a pattern generator where cells self-organize in 2-D and 3-D based on phase separation and differential adhesion, and the resulting cell arrangements resemble animal coat patterns (Cachat et al. 2016, Sci. Rep. 6: 20664). By inducing specific morphogenetic circuits from a library of synthetic genetic modules we built previously (Cachat et al. 2014, J. Biol. Eng. 8: 26), we can add complexity to this pattern. For example, we can target one of the population to selectively undergo apoptosis (Cachat et al. 2017, Eng. Biol. 1-6), or target boundary cells to undergo specific differentiation. Although differential adhesion is a mechanism naturally occurring in developing tissues, it has not been identified as a pattern-generating mechanism in animals and as such constitutes a truly synthetic road to patterning. Another genetic machine we are building uses an architecture developed in theoretical terms in the 1950s by Alan Turing: the reaction-diffusion mechanism. Depending on system parameters, engineered cells should produce spots, stripes, swirls or travelling waves of activation. As opposed to the above patterning mechanism, the reaction-diffusion mechanism has been shown to drive patterning in developing embryos, but has not yet been reproduced synthetically. Together, these approaches will create simple systems to test existing theories of morphogenesis and patterning derived from the study of animal development but difficult to test in complex embryos. These approaches will also create synthetic platforms for use in tissue engineering, regenerative medicine and for the development of clinically-useful structures outside the normal developmental repertoire (Davies & Cachat 2016, Biochem. Soc. Trans. 44, 696-701).

View all 13 publications on Research Explorer