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You 2008 DuPont Young Investigator

To support his work in the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, DuPont has awarded Lingchong You a three-year research grant as a part of its Young Professor program for 2008.

Lingchong YouYou, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering and researcher at Duke’s Institute of Genome Sciences and Policy, focuses his research on the creation of “living circuits” comprised of genetically altered microbes. By manipulating these circuits, You hopes to produce proteins or chemicals that may have pharmaceutical or industrial applications.

“In the past, only single populations of microbes have been genetically altered to produce some protein or chemical,” You said. “However, this approach isn’t as efficient as it could be. Our approach is to create a synthetic ecosystem with many populations of genetically altered microbes living together. Each population will synthesize a subset of enzymes that are required for the population as a whole to produce desired proteins or chemicals in a coordinated way.”

You will receive $75,000 over three years as a part of the DuPont award.

In recent years, journals such as Nature and Science have published the results of his research on a bacterial density controller by using engineered cell-cell communication. Extending the concept, another recent study published in the journal Molecular Systems Biology in April provided new insights into the complex relationships between predators and their prey in a synthetic ecosystem.

In 2006, You received a prestigious David and Lucile Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering. This five-year, $625,000 award, is given to “unusually creative researchers” who are within their first three years as a university faculty member.

You joined the Duke faculty in 2004, after completing a two-year postdoctoral program in biochemistry from the California Institute of Technology. He received a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from University Wisconsin-Madison; an M.S. in molecular biology from the University of Science and Technology of China; and a B.E. in chemical engineering from Chengdu University of Science and Technology.

His research has also been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.