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Sanjay Vashee is an Associate Professor in the Synthetic Biology Group at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, MD. After joining JCVI in 2003, Dr. Vashee helped the Synthetic Biology Group develop synthetic genomics methods and technologies that led to the creation of a synthetic organism based on Mycoplasma mycoides subspecies capri. His research interests leverage these synthetic genomics technologies to better study and develop therapeutics for human and animal diseases.

Currently, Dr. Vashee is the Principal Investigator on a project funded by the NSF under the BREAD program to develop a more effective vaccine for contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP), an economically very important cattle disease that affects much of Africa, restricting trade and limiting the availability of protein sources for nutrition. He and his colleagues at INRA, France and UBERN, Switzerland are adapting the JCVI synthetic genomics technology to allow genetic manipulation of the CBPP pathogen, M. mycoides subspecies mycoides, expanding the mycoplasma genetic toolbox and using the latest genome sequencing platforms to identify virulence factors.

Together, these advances should help develop a more effective and safe vaccine based upon a rationally designed attenuated strain. Dr. Vashee also helps lead ongoing NIH funded projects that leverage synthetic genomics approaches to engineer large DNA viruses, including human herpesviruses on a genome-wide and combinatorial scale. Collaborators in these efforts include researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Herpes simplex virus 1 and Epstein Barr virus) as well as researchers at Tomegavax and Synthetic Genomics Vaccines, Inc. to develop a synthetic human cytomegalovirus vaccine. More recently, Dr. Vashee leads IDRC-funded efforts to develop genetic tools to manipulate African swine fever virus and DARPA-funded efforts to develop a Forensic Microbial System.

Prior to joining JCVI, Dr. Vashee was a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University-School of Medicine where he was the first to characterize the in vitro DNA-binding properties of the human origin recognition complex, the initiator protein of eukaryotic DNA replication. Dr. Vashee holds a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master's degree in Chemistry from Western Illinois University and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin.

Research Priorities

Development of therapeutics for viral diseases using synthetic genomics

  • Genome-wide engineering of human herpesviruses (herpes simplex virus 1, human cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus) to develop vaccines
  • Improving genetic tools for African swine fever virus to facilitate development of an effective vaccine

Development of vaccines for bacterial diseases using synthetic genomics

  • Generating safe vaccines for contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and contagious caprine pleuropneumonia based on live rationally attenuated strains
  • Exploring the use of M. mycoides subspecies capri as vector for animal bacterial and viral diseases


Select Publications

Genome-wide engineering of an infectious clone of herpes simplex virus type 1 using synthetic genomics assembly methods.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2017-09-19; 114.38:
PMID: 28928148
Cloning, Assembly, and Modification of the Primary Human Cytomegalovirus Isolate Toledo by Yeast-Based Transformation-Associated Recombination.
mSphere. 2017-09-01; 2.5:
PMID: 28989973
Efficient size-independent chromosome delivery from yeast to cultured cell lines.
Nucleic acids research. 2017-04-20; 45.7: e50.
PMID: 27980064
The Human Microbiome and Cancer.
Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.). 2017-04-01; 10.4: 226-234.
PMID: 28096237
Impact of donor-recipient phylogenetic distance on bacterial genome transplantation.
Nucleic acids research. 2016-09-30; 44.17: 8501-11.
PMID: 27488189
MIB-MIP is a mycoplasma system that captures and cleaves immunoglobulin G.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2016-05-10; 113.19: 5406-11.
PMID: 27114507
In-Yeast Engineering of a Bacterial Genome Using CRISPR/Cas9.
ACS synthetic biology. 2016-01-15; 5.1: 104-9.
PMID: 26592087
Galactofuranose in Mycoplasma mycoides is important for membrane integrity and conceals adhesins but does not contribute to serum resistance.
Molecular microbiology. 2016-01-01; 99.1: 55-70.
PMID: 26354009
High quality draft genomes of the Mycoplasma mycoides subsp. mycoides challenge strains Afadé and B237.
Standards in genomic sciences. 2015-01-01; 10.89.
PMID: 26516405
TREC-IN: gene knock-in genetic tool for genomes cloned in yeast.
BMC genomics. 2014-12-24; 15.1180.
PMID: 25539750
Synthetic genomics: potential and limitations.
Current opinion in biotechnology. 2012-10-01; 23.5: 659-65.
PMID: 22342755
Creating bacterial strains from genomes that have been cloned and engineered in yeast.
Science (New York, N.Y.). 2009-09-25; 325.5948: 1693-6.
PMID: 19696314