James J. Collins is the Henri Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT. He is also a Core Founding Faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, and an Institute Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His research group works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance. Professor Collins’ patented technologies have been licensed by over 25 biotech, pharma and medical devices companies, and he has helped to launched a number of companies, including Sample6 Technologies, Synlogic and EnBiotix. He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Rhodes Scholarship, a MacArthur “Genius” Award, an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, as well as several teaching awards. Professor Collins is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, as well as a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Research Interests

James J. Collins' laboratory is focused on using engineering principles and molecular biology techniques to model, design and construct synthetic gene networks. They have created genetic toggle switches, RNA switches, genetic counters, microbial kill switches, synthetic bacteriophage to combat resistant bacterial infections, synthetic probiotics to detect-and-treat infections, synthetic mRNA for stem cell reprogramming, and tunable mammalian genetic switches. Recently, the Collins lab developed paper-based synthetic gene networks, a technology platform that forms the basis for inexpensive, in vitro diagnostic tests (e.g., Ebola) and portable molecular manufacturing (e.g., vaccines) in the developing world. The lab's work in synthetic biology has enabled multiple biomedical applications, including in vivo biosensing, antibiotic potentiation, biofilm eradication, in vitro pathogen detection, rapid antibiotic susceptibility testing, identification of antibiotic counterfeits, drug target identification/validation, microbiome reengineering, and efficient stem cell reprogramming. The Collins lab also uses network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of antibiotic resistance, with the goal of utilizing the insights gained from these studies to enhance our existing antibiotic arsenal and develop novel means to treat resistant and persistent bacterial infections.

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Primary Section

Section 31: Engineering Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 29: Biophysics and Computational Biology