The emerging field of synthetic biology lies at the intersection of biology and engineering. It uses engineering principles to design DNA parts, devices and systems that encode different functions and applications of our interest. IIB is the leading hub for synthetic biology research in Pakistan. With keen interest from the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there is ongoing work on the development of enzymes and proteins for key industrial processes. Undergraduates from the lab have had the privilege to make Pakistan’s first iGEM team in 2016, ultimately winning a bronze medal at the World Championship in Boston. Their work focused on the development of biosensor (bacterial cells with synthetic DNA devices) to detect posies gases in the environment. Dr Faisal Khan's group has a growing repository of DNA parts that can be used for a wide variety of applications.
Over the past decade, biology has witnessed a surge in the output of DNA. This predominantly includes DNA sequence data from all sorts of species and types of samples (disease ones in man for example). This also includes a growing pool of other types of data including, gene expression, protein structure, protein interaction, protein abundance and other phenotypic data about different genes. Systems Biology is an attempt to integrate all of these different genomic,trsncriptomic, proteomic and other ‘-omic’ datasets to get a near-complete picture of cellular pathways and molecular functions. Dr Faisal Khan’s group uses protein interaction network to study the interaction of proteins in different types of systems, mainly including cell division and cancer, and infectious diseases including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Malaria, Dengue Fever and Tuberculosis. These networks can be used to study the interaction and predict the function of uncharacterised proteins in order to identify new potential drug targets.
Nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. One interesting application is the treatment for controlling disease outbreaks, especially by drug-resistant bacteria. At IIB, Dr Akhtar Nadhman’s group is developing sophisticated Zinc Oxide (ZnO) chemical clusters which can be activated by light which in turn can trigger other downstream chemical reactions. The research focuses on developing ZnO nanoparticles that are devoid of “chemical holes” which makes them more photoactive and there for more efficient. The group is exploring different types of dopants that can plug the gaps in ZnO particles and in doing so enhance their photo-catalytic properties. We intend to use such “doped” light-activatable ZnO nanoparticles for producing reactive oxygen species (ROS) to eliminate infectious agents as well as cancerous cells.