Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School; Wyss Institute, Harvard University;
Yin, Peng

Peng Yin is an Assistant Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and a Core Faculty Member at Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. His research interests lie at the interface of information science, molecular engineering, and biology. He directs the Molecular Systems Lab at Harvard to engineer programmable molecular systems inspired by biology.

The current focus is to engineer information directed self-assembly of nucleic acid (DNA/RNA) structures and devices, and to exploit such systems to perform useful functions in vitro and in vivo. The lab is developing these structures as templates for fabricating inorganic materials with precisely prescribed shapes and compositions, as imaging probes with programmable geometry and dynamics for multiplexed and quantitative super-resolution imaging, and as programmable scaffolds and circuits to probe and regulate the spatial and temporal behavior of biological processes in living cells. See the lab’s work at

Tue July 9 | 2:00 - 4:00
ABSTRACT: Programming Nucleic Acids Self-Assembly

I will discuss my lab’s research on engineering synthetic, nucleic acid-based nanostructures and applications in vitro and in vivo.  We have recently invented a general framework for programming the self-assembly of short synthetic nucleic acid strands into prescribed target shapes or demonstrating their prescribed dynamic behavior. Using short DNA strands, we have demonstrated the modular construction of sophisticated 2D  (Nature, 485:623-626, 2012) and 3D (Science, 338:1177-1183, 2012) structures on the 100-nanometer scale with nanometer precision. Using reconfigurable DNA hairpins, we have demonstrated diverse, dynamic behavior such as catalytic circuits, triggered assembly, and autonomous locomotion (Nature, 451:318, 2008).  By interfacing these synthetic, nucleic acid nanostructures with functional molecules, we are developing a diverse range of real-world applications. In biosensing, we have constructed robust and specific probes for detecting single-base changes in a single-stranded DNA/RNA target (Nat. Chem. 4:208-214, 2012). In bioimaging, we have engineered geometrically encoded fluorescent barcodes for highly multiplexed single-molecule imaging (Nat. Chem., 4:832-839, 2012). In nanofabrication, we have developed a versatile framework for producing inorganic materials (e.g. graphene [Nat. Communications, 2013, in press], silver, gold) with arbitrary prescribed nanometer scale shapes.  We are migrating our capability on the rational engineering of DNA structures in test tubes to RNA structures in living cells. I will discuss our ongoing work on developing RNA based scaffolds, conditional regulators, and computational modules to probe and program biology.