Founder Ginkgo Bioworks. 'Father of Synthetic Biology'
As an MIT student and faculty member in the 60's and 70's, Tom Knight was instrumental in the development of ARPANET, the progenitor of what is now the global Internet. As a senior research scientist in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) Tom made many diverse and important contributions to computer science earning over 30 patents. He later became interested in biology as a manufacturing technology, setting up the first molecular biology lab at CSAIL to explore the possibility of rational design and construction of biological systems.
Tom is considered to be the ‘Father of Synthetic Biology’, envisioning a “free operating system for biotechnology". He was the first to propose the idea of a formal engineering framework for biology, through the standardisation and characterisation of genetic elements encoded in DNA. He introduced the concept of ‘BioBricks’, modular biological parts that can be assembled in combination to build functional genetic devices and systems with predictable behaviours. An ever-expanding collection of BioBricks now form the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, the basis for the international Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) competition. Since the first iGEM competition in 2004, nearly 200 universities and thousands of students from across the world have participated in the annual event. Along with his lab at CSAIL, Tom spends his time at Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-based Synthetic Biology company he established with his former MIT graduate students, engineering organisms by design.