Skip to Main Content

Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series (WALS) - Scalable platforms for generating RNA sensors and controllers

October 23, 2019

3:00pm - 4:00pm

Building 10, Clinical Center, Masur Auditorium

DeWitt Stetten, Jr. Lecture

The NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series, colloquially known as WALS, is the highest-profile lecture program at the NIH. Lectures occur on most Wednesdays from September through June from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. in Masur Auditorium, Building 10 on the NIH Bethesda campus.

Each season includes some of the biggest names in biomedical and behavioral research. The goal of the WALS is to keep NIH researchers abreast of the latest and most important research in the United States and beyond. An added treat is the annual J. Edward Rall Cultural Lecture, which features top authors and other cultural icons. All speakers are nominated by the NIH community.

Speaker: Christina D. Smolke, Ph.D.

Biosensors are key components in engineered biological systems that interface with the large biochemical space in living cells and their environment. Aptamers, functional nucleic acid molecules that bind ligands, provide a powerful sensing element for many classes of molecules of interest. Although procedures such as SELEX have been quite successful in generating individual aptamers that bind proteins, generating small molecule aptamers has been more challenging due to the need to chemically modify the ligand to permit the recovery of binding sequences. I will introduce a new method for de novo rapid in vitro evolution of RNA biosensors (DRIVER) that enables multiplexed discovery of biosensors for unmodified ligands without immobilization. I will also showcase how DRIVER-selected biosensors can be used for a variety of applications, including gene expression control, enzyme evolution, closed-loop control systems of synthetic metabolic pathways, modulating viral infectivity, triggering CRISPR/Cas9 genome modification, and producing highly multiplexed diagnostic assays. 


This lecture will be followed by a reception in the NIH Library. Special thanks to the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES) for its support of the weekly reception. FAES is proud to co-sponsor with the NIH in hosting the Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series.

To watch the WALS lecture online, visit Registration is not required; seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Fire regulations require that every person in Masur Auditorium must have a seat. Standing in the aisles or in the back of the auditorium is not permitted. Sign language interpreters can be provided. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodation to participate in this event should contact Jacqueline Roberts,, 301-594-6747, or the Federal Relay, 800-877-8339.