James Collins

  • Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, USA
  • William F. Warren Distinguished Professor
  • Ph.D., Medical Engineering, University of Oxford
  • A.B., Physics, College of the Holy Cross

Research Interests

Synthetic biology; systems biology; antibiotics

Current research

Dr. Collins’ research group works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on network biology approaches to antibiotic action and bacterial defense mechanisms.

En savoir plusCollins Lab

We are using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

We are designing and constructing synthetic gene networks for a variety of biotechnology and medical applications, with a particular focus on the detection and treatment of infectious diseases.

MAGE is a technology that is capable of taking a population of cells and adding, deleting, and replacing DNA sequences at very specific target locations within the cellular genome. Learn more...

Wyss scientists are learning how to quickly and cheaply manufacture the building blocks of life -- DNA, RNA, proteins, and cells -- and to generate almost unlimited variations in their shape and structure. DNA is biodegradable and biocompatible, so this unprecedented to ability engineer it from scratch -- mimicking natural evolution and accelerating it in a predetermined way -- gives scientists new tools to reverse cancer in the new era of personalized medicine, deliver drugs to injury sites, and engineer microbes that produce biodegradable plastics. Genetic engineering is to biology, disease treatment, personalized medicine, environmental sustainability and more what Silicon Valley was for computer technology and information: it is a game-changer, and the genetic revolution is upon us.

One team is re-engineering photosynthetic bacteria to produce hydrogen and other fuels -- in essence, transforming groups of cells into biological solar panels. Another is constructing genetic "memory" devices, including on-off switches and counters that effectively function like living transistors for integrated biochip devices. And still another is using powerful new methods including DNA origami and modular 3D nanofabrication techniques to assemble complex shapes out of DNA for "smart" drug delivery and next generation computer circuits.

In addition to using DNA in a way that unearths a whole new landscape of state-of-the-art medical and energy-related applications, this team is using it to store significant amounts of data in unprecedented ways. Because the DNA molecule is so highly dense, it just might be the world's most capable storage unit -- potentially able to house all of the world's information in just a few grams of DNA weighing as much as four paper clips.

Selected recent publications

Brynildsen M, Winkler J, Spina C, MacDonald IC, Collins JJ Potentiating antibacterial activity by predictably enhancing endogenous microbial ROS productionNature Biotechnology. 31: 160-165. (2013)

Khalil A, Lu T, Bashor C, Ramirez C, Pyenson N, Joung J, Collins JJA synthetic biology framework for programming eukaryotic transcription functionsCell. 150; 647-658. (2012)

Dwyer D, Camacho D, Kohanski M, Callura J, Collins JJAntibiotic-induced bacterial cell death exhibits physiological and biochemical hallmarks of apoptosisMolecular Cell. 46; 561-572. (2012)

Foti J, Devadoss B, Winkler J, Collins JJ, Walker G “Oxidation of the guanine nucleotide pool underlies cell death by bactericidal antibioticsScience. 336: 315-319. (2012)

Vega N, Allison K, Khalil A, Collins JJSignaling-mediated Bacterial Persister FormationNature Chemical Biology. 8: 431-433. (2012)

Allison K, Brynildsen M, Collins JJ Metabolite-enabled Eradication of Bacterial Persisters by AminoglycosidesNature. 473: 216-220. (2011)

Lee H, Molla M, Cantor C, Collins JJBacterial Charity Work Leads to Population-Wide ResistanceNature. 467: 82-86. (2010)

Kohanski M, DePristo M, Collins JJSublethal Antibiotic Treatment Leads to Multidrug Resistance via Radical-Induced MutagenesisMolecular Cell. 37: 311-320. (2010)

Friedland A, Lu T, Wang X, Shi D, Church G, Collins JJSynthetic Gene Networks That CountScience. 324: 1199-1202. (2009)

Ellis T, Wang X, Collins JJDiversity-based, Model-guided Construction of Synthetic Gene Networks with Predicted FunctionsNature Biotechnology. 27 (5): 465-471. (2009)

Dwyer D, Kohanski M, Collins JJNetworking Opportunities for BacteriaCell. 135: 1153-1156. (2008)

Kohanski M, Dwyer D, Wierzbowski J, Cottarel G, Collins JJMistranslation of Membrane Proteins and Two-Component System Activation Trigger Antibiotic-Mediated Cell DeathCell. 135: 679-690. (2008)

Kohanski MA, Dwyer DJ, Hayete B, Lawrence CA and Collins JJA Common Mechanism of Cellular Death Induced by Bactericidal AntibioticsCell. 130: 797-810. (2007)

Deans TL, Cantor CR and Collins JJA Tunable Genetic Switch Based on RNAi and Repressor Proteins for Regulating Gene Expression in Mammalian CellsCell. 130: 363-372. (2007)