Title: Faculty & research interests

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Virginia W Cornish
Virginia W Cornish, PhD
Professor
Associate Member

Department: Chemistry


212 854-5209
vc114@columbia.edu


Personal Website

Disease Models:

Stem Cell Categories:

Model Organisms: Yeast

Themes: Bioengineering, Stem Cell Biology



Synthetic Biology aims to engineer artificial pathways in living cells. By so doing it tests fundamental notions of how complex biological networks function and provides new strategies for the treatment of disease. Dr. Cornish's laboratory has shown that chemistry can be used to co-opt the cell's existing pathways to carry out new functions. Moving beyond advances in the last century for the synthesis of biomolecules in vitro, they are manipulating biomolecules in vivo by combining modern methods in genetics and synthetic chemistry to engineer the cell. Rather than designing molecules that minimally perturb the cell's natural functions, their approach is to design molecules capable of harnessing the cell's own highly evolved and co-operative synthetic machinery for production of modified biomolecules in vivo. Specifically, using yeast as a model system, her laboratory is engineering the cell to carry out directed evolution in vivo. They have adapted powerful genetic selections for the evolution of biomolecules whose functions lie beyond those naturally carried out by the cell. More closely mimicking natural evolution, the Cornish lab is now engineering yeast for directed mutagenesis and selection under conditions of sexual reproduction. Continuing her Ph.D. work, her laboratory also is harnessing the translational machinery for the synthesis of new molecules using misacylated tRNA substrates. Finally, they are exploiting both synthetic methods to generate chemical tools for live cell imaging.

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