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Kate Adamala

Assistant Professor


Lab website

Research Statement

We work on building tools for studying and controlling biology, using synthetic cells and protein engineering technologies. We utilize the combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches to synthetic biology: using classical protein engineering and molecular biology and combining it with the “synthetic cell” liposome bioreactors to interface with natural cells. We are expanding the current cell-free protein synthesis and RNA-binding protein technologies to build a programmable synthetic minimal cell bioreactors, and to interface with mammalian cells for readout of cellular states and for developing better ways of optogenetic control. We also use the synthetic cells as environment to reconstitute and study natural genetic pathways, and as a tool for developing novel ways of engineering genetic pathways. The long-term goal of this work is for the synthetic minimal cells to be used in vivo in applications including, but not limited to, neurotransmitter detection and controlled release, tumor detection, controlling tissue signaling and cell differentiation, as well as drug development, metabolic engineering and biotechnological applications.


Engineering genetic circuit interactions within and between synthetic minimal cells; Katarzyna P. Adamala*, Daniel A. Martin-Alarcon*, Katriona R. Guthrie-Honea, Edward S. Boyden; Nature Chemistry, 2016, doi:10.1038/nchem.2644; *equal contribution

Programmable RNA-binding protein composed of repeats of a single modular unit; Katarzyna P. Adamala*, Daniel A. Martin-Alarcon*, and Edward S. Boyden; PNAS, 2016, 10.1073/pnas.1519368113; *equal contribution

Collaboration between primitive cell membranes and soluble catalysts; K. Adamala*, A. E. Engelhart* and J. W. Szostak; Nature Communications, 2016, doi:10.1038/ncomms11041; *equal contribution

A simple physical mechanism enables homeostasis in primitive cells; A. E. Engelhart*, K. Adamala*, and J. W. Szostak; Nature Chemistry, 2016, doi:10.1038/nchem.2475; *equal contribution

Generation of Functional RNAs from Inactive Oligonucleotide Complexes by Non-enzymatic Primer Extension; K. Adamala*, A. E. Engelhart* and J. W. Szostak; J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2015, 137 (1), pp 483 - 489, DOI: 10.1021/ja511564d; *equal contribution

Competition between model protocells driven by an encapsulated catalyst; K. Adamala and J.W. Szostak, Nature Chemistry 5 (2013) 495 - 501;

Non-enzymatic template-directed RNA synthesis inside model protocells; K. Adamala and J.W. Szostak, Science 342 (2013) 1098 - 1100;



5-128 MCB (Office)
5-178 MCB (Lab)
420 Washington Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455