Harvard University, Broad Institute
Cong, Le

Le Cong is from Beijing, China. He studied electronic engineering and biological sciences at Tsinghua University. He received his B.S., summa cum laude, in 2009, awarded the Tsinghua Grand Scholarship given to top 5 students out of all 13,915 undergraduates. Afterwards, he moved to U.S. to pursue his graduate degree at Harvard Medical School. He is co-advised by Drs. Feng Zhang and George Church.

He has been working on a number of projects from in situ sequencing, directed evolution, to genomic and epigenomic engineering, with a focus on developing new technologies to enable high-throughput genome engineering. Le has been working on Transcription activator-like effector (TALE) and CRISPR-Cas system based technologies and their applications. He has co-authored eight peer-reviewed papers in journals such as Science, Nature Biotechnology, etc., and was co-inventor on several related patent applications. He is interested in developing synthetic tools and utilizes them to understand human biology.

Tue July 9 | 2:00 - 4:00
ABSTRACT: Genome Engineering Technology for Synthetic Biology: a TALE and CRISPR Duet

The integration of genetic, biochemical, and engineering techniques and vast amount of data from genome sequencing have enabled us to synthesize various types of biomaterial for engineering purposes and utilize the genetic information of different biological systems and organisms with unprecedented resolution. However the emerging atlas for the development and application of synthetic biology and bioengineering is both illuminating and perplexing due to the lack of powerful and precise tools to control biological systems at genome-scale, especially in mammalian systems.

Recent developments in cell-specific perturbation technologies are beginning to give researchers the ability to reverse engineer various biological processes and probing the properties of specific molecules within a biological circuits or cellular ecosystems. Yet the need for a true easy-to-design, fast-to-synthesize, low-cost, multiplexable, open-source genome engineering technology still persists. Our work focuses on two parts to further advance synthetic biological tools to bridge this gap between data generation and experimental tools:

  1. developing and testing technologies to support large-scale high-throughput genome engineering efforts based on Transcription Activator-like Effectors (TALEs) and CRISPR-Cas systems and
  2. integrating these tools with a variety of readout methods for modeling biological processes and developing synthetic pathways and circuits for applications in a variety of organisms.

This transforming technology platform will likely improve our understanding and control of the complex biological pathways and circuits within both prokaryotic and eukaryotic systems, leading to potential new synthetic biology applications in basic biology and industrial-scale bioengineering, as well as advance the field of translational research by providing powerful tools to the research community for developing novel therapeutics to improve human health.