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Scientific Advisory Board

Knut Woltjen, PhD

Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) Kyoto University

Knut Woltjen is a graduate of the University of Alberta Molecular Genetics program (Honours, First Class) and received his Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Calgary, Canada. He completed his Post-doctoral research at the University of Toronto in 2009, and served as the founding Manager of the Ontario Human iPS Cell Facility before joining the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) as an Assistant Professor in 2010. He is an alumnus of the Kyoto University Hakubi Center for Advanced Research (2013 – 2017), and currently an Associate Professor in CiRA. Dr. Woltjen’s research focuses on the development and application of genome editing tools for functional genomics in order to understand the basis of human health. In 2009, Dr. Woltjen reported the creation of the first footprint-free mouse and human iPS cells using the piggyBac transposon. Since then, his laboratory continues to develop novel technologies based on CRISPR-Cas9 to drive homology-directed repair (HDR) or microhomology-mediated end joining (MMEJ) cellular repair pathways to achieve precision editing of single nucleotide polymorphisms and deletion variants.

Nathan Hillson, PhD

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Dr. Hillson earned his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Harvard Medical School. He did his postdoctoral work in Developmental (Micro)Biology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Hillson's work has spanned the realms of the private (notably as co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at TeselaGen Biotechnologies, Inc.) and public biotechnology sectors. As Department Head of BioDesign within the Biological Systems & Engineering Division, Dr. Hillson leads scientists and engineers within Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory whose domain expertise spans synthetic biology, metabolic engineering, microbiology, microbial communities, software engineering, and laboratory automation engineering. As overall Principal Investigator of the U.S. DOE Agile Biofoundry, Dr. Hillson leads an even broader group of scientists and engineers distributed across 8 U.S. DOE National Labs towards the development of a public infrastructure that enables the private sector to reduce the cost and accelerate bioprocess commercialization timelines (from conception to process scale up and deployment). This infrastructure complements discovery engines (such as the Joint Genome Insitute, to which Dr. Hillson also contributes), by enabling the discovered (yet small scale, low titer/rates/yields) pathways to be more quickly and reliably optimized and scaled. Efforts are supported by DOE-funded entities, including the DOE Agile BioFoundry, DOE Joint BioEnergy Institute, DOE Joint Genome Institute, as well as by industry-sponsored collaborations.

Claudia Vickers, PhD

Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN)

Associate Professor Vickers holds dual roles as Director of the Synthetic Biology Future Platform at CSIRO (Australia’s national research agency) and Group Leader at The University of Queensland’s  Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. She holds a PhD in molecular biology (cereal crop bioengineering) from UQ. Her early research interests spanned plant physiology, abiotic stress and the metabolic regulation of volatile isoprenoids. Over the last decade, she has focussed on developing and deploying synthetic biology tools targeted towards rational re-engineering of microbial metabolism for production of plant isoprenoids, a large group of natural products with many biological functions and diverse industrial applications. This includes basic research on understanding metabolic regulation. Since 2017 Associate Professor Vickers has led the CSIRO SynBioFSP, a highly collaborative $60 M R&D program aimed at expanding Australia’s synthetic biology capability and ultimately developing a synthetic biology-based industry in the nation. She also leads the CSIRO-UQ Synthetic Biology Alliance and is director of the CSIRO-UQ BioFoundry. She was founding President of the professional society Synthetic Biology Australasia and is co-Chair of the International Society for Terpenoids (TERPNET). She served on the expert working groups for Australia’s national synthetic biology roadmap (delivered by the Australian Council of Learned Academies) and the Australian government NCRIS Synthetic Biology Infrastructure Investment Plan. She is also a Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Fellow. She serves on editorial boards for eight international journals, including as a handing editor for ACS Synthetic Biology and ASM mSystems.

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