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Irreversible, Low Load Genetic Switches




  • Induction/suppression of gene expression
  • Production of genomic knock-outs and knock-ins
  • Growing genetically engineered crops for biofuel feedstock
  • Targeted gene therapy
  • Containment systems for environmental cleanup
  • Research by developmental and systems biologists, biological engineers and synthetic biologists


  • Handles multiple genes simultaneously
  • Reduces noise and load
  • Reduces likelihood of crosstalk/derailing a circuit
  • Improves reliability
  • Applicable to many organisms including plants, bacteria, yeast, fruit flies, and mice


Although the use of recombinases for manipulation of genomic sequences is well established, only a few recombinases have been conclusively demonstrated to work orthogonally. That is, as non-cross-reacting recombinases, they do not cause unpredictable recombination events.

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have developed novel nucleic acid constructs containing newly-matched orthogonal site selective recombinases. The JBEI invention removes the ability of a cell to access certain genes and enables the concurrent use of multiple recombinases. This system enables multiple genes to be turned on or off at different states of an organism’s lifecycle, which has both research and industrial applications. It offers improved reliability over other approaches by ensuring that circuits proceed to completion rather than equilibrating.

Potentially, these devices could be used to construct an expression system with low load on the cell, a very low level of basal expression and an extremely high level of expression after induction. This could be useful in industry and medicine where a growth phase and a production/manipulation phase need to be kept distinct. Using this sort of toggle, many changes can be made at once to cell physiology.

Attention potential SBIR/STTR Program applicants (FY2013, Phase 1 Release 1): Please do not contact researchers directly with technology questions. Go here to learn how you may interact with researchers during the FOA open period.

The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, is a scientific partnership led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and including the Sandia National Laboratories, the University of California campuses of Berkeley and Davis, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. JBEI’s primary scientific mission is to advance the development of the next generation of biofuels.


To learn more about licensing a technology from LBNL see

STATUS: US Patent Application 13088288. Available for licensing or collaborative research.



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