The Canada Research Chairs Program (CRCP) is designed to make Canada one of the top countries in scientific development by attracting a diverse cadre of world-class researchers. Dr. Nozomu’s CRC is a big step in expanding the range of academic exploration and training supported by the CRCP at postsecondary institutions across Canada.

“Dr. Yachie’s CRC further consolidates SBME’s commitment to national leadership in Synthetic Biology,” says SBME Director, Peter Zandstra. “A Tier 2 CRC positions Dr. Yachie as an emerging international leader. It’s a well-deserved recognition and it will be exciting to see the impact this funding has on both his work and our ecosystem.”

What is Synthetic Biology?

Synthetic biology advances the design of genetic devices that enable the study of cellular and molecular biology in mammalian cells, and the field represents a fantastic opportunity for Canada. By broadening the country’s expertise in the development and manufacture of advanced diagnostics, vaccines, and biologics, Canada’s life sciences industry can take advantage of advancements taking place in its own backyard.

The overarching goal in life sciences and for the SBME as a whole is to improve health and healthcare for all, and to do that we need novel approaches that yield new understanding of human biology. But tracking cellular behaviors in complex biological systems is no easy feat. That’s where the Yachie Lab comes in. ⁠

Dr. Yachie’s Work

The Yachie laboratory is developing “DNA event recording” technologies that will collect high-resolution, molecular and cellular information of individual cells. This data is progressively stored in cell-embedded synthetic “DNA tapes.” This means that, at the time of observation, this system can readout stored, historical molecular and cellular information. In other words, it allows us to see what a particular cell did or didn’t do at various stages of its life cycle.

Why is this important? If we can understand when and how a cell exhibits a specific behaviour over the course of its life, then we can start to figure out why. Why it turned malignant or why it didn’t; why it self-destructed or proliferated.

And with that kind of understanding, a whole new world of possible interventions and therapeutics open up before us. ⁠⠀

Congratulations to Dr. Yachie, and to all 2020 CRC recipients.

Dr. Yachie on his CRC

What does it mean to you to be named a CRC?

I’m genuinely thrilled to move my team from Tokyo, Japan, to UBC through the CRC program. It will be an adventurous and incredible scientific and personal journey for myself and the team.

What do you hope this will lead to both for yourself and for the field?

Over the past six years, our team has developed various new synthetic biology technologies to engineer cells and genomes. Now we’re trying to establish a new foundation in synthetic biology, which we call DNA event recording. With this new idea, we aim to develop a “video camera” made of biological molecules and install it into mammalian cells to sense and record dynamic cellular and environmental information into a digital DNA memory composed of four letters A, C, G, and T.

In natural science, we can only observe objects that exist in front of us. To observe an object’s underlying systems, we currently have to break them, especially when looking at their molecular and cellular profiles. This restricts study as we can never know what happens next for the cells that we sacrifice at the time of observation. DNA event recording tries to break this big conceptual wall in the broader field of biology. UBC’s SBME is a multidisciplinary school with excellent researchers in stem cell and developmental biology, device engineering and regenerative medicine and actively pursuing translational research. Through the CRC program and the friendship and environment of SBME, we will put down a firm root of mammalian synthetic biology in the country and try to pioneer the next generation of biological understanding.

What are you excited to pursue next?

This CRC program allows us to set up a new set of infrastructures to develop molecular “sensor,” “writer,” “memory,” and “reader” technology for the establishment of the DNA event recorder. These infrastructures include cell engineering platforms and high-throughput automation technologies for molecular circuit construction. This will all serve to accelerate our research projects.

I also hope to produce more talented high-quality personnel (HQP) through the program. Our project at UBC’s SBME will provide trainees with a highly multidisciplinary and open research environment that will be unique to Canada. Trainees in our program will have the opportunity to develop multiple skills in methodologies. They will be exposed to a broad range of biological fields, such as developmental biology, immunology, cancer biology, and regenerative medicine. More importantly, as the research program requires coverage of diverse skill and knowledge sets, I will stress the development of logical and strategic thinking, risk and benefit estimation, and project management, as well as scientific writing and presentation. This program will enhance my team’s goal to produce HQP who will lead academia and industry of health sciences of generations to come.

Stay tuned! We will do something crazy 😉

Dr. Nozomu Yachie

Learn More About the Yachie Lab

To find out more about Dr. Yachie’s work, check out the Yachie Lab at⁠