University of Georgia

Turning cells into factories

Yajun Yan
Yajun Yan (Photo by Peter Frey)

Researchers in the UGA College of Engineering have developed a new genetic “smart circuit,” rewiring the metabolism of microorganisms and turning them into efficient machines that can produce valuable chemicals for a variety of applications in research, biomedicine and industry.

Making cells into efficient factories is a challenging task. Cells have robust metabolic networks with hard-wired, tightly regulated lines of communication that resist efforts to divert resources.

“Cells are not happy when they are regulated,” says Yajun Yan, an associate professor of engineering and one of the study’s authors. “They will produce only what’s necessary for their growth. Our method tells the cell to switch from growth mode to production mode.”

The study’s co-first authors are Yaping Yang, a postdoctoral research assistant in Yan’s lab, and Yuheng Lin, chief technology officer of BiotecEra Inc. Lin and Yan are co-founders of the biotechnology company, housed in UGA’s Innovation Gateway incubator.

This brief appeared in the fall 2018 issue of  Research Magazine. The original press release is available at