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WPI Chemical Engineer Published in Nature Communications

March 5, 2021

Chemical engineer Eric Young has published a paper in a prestigious, peer-reviewed scientific journal related to his research into creating a biosecurity tool to detect bioengineered organisms.

In the paper “Engineered Yeast Genomes Accurately Assembled from Pure and Mixed Samples,” published in Nature Communications, Young, assistant professor of chemical engineering, described his research into accurately assembling yeast genome sequences to enable scientists to reliably find and verify bioengineered organisms based on their unique DNA signatures. In recent years, the U.S. government has recognized the need for new tools that can identify engineered organisms when they are mixed in with a myriad of naturally occurring microorganisms. These tools could be used to protect a company’s intellectual property should an organism it designed accidentally escape the lab, or to detect intentional releases of potentially harmful organisms.

WPI PhD student Collins is the first author on the paper, and PhD student Kevin Keating is the second author. Undergraduates Trent Jones ’20, Shravani Balaji ’20, Celeste Marsan ’19, Marina Como ’21, and Zachary Newlon ’21 also contributed to the work.

Young is part of a multi-institution research team. The project originally was funded by a 2019 grant awarded to Raytheon BBN Technologies, a Massachusetts-based defense contractor, by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), an organization within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, through the Finding Engineering-Linked Indicators (FELIX) program. One of five subcontractors on the project, Young received an initial award of $377,746 and will receive an additional $634,578 in the second phase.