James Collins (Boston University)
June 26, 1965 |
New York City, New York, US
|Residence||US, UK (1987-90)|
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
|Alma mater||University of Oxford (Ph.D.)
Holy Cross (BA)
|Notable awards||Lagrange Prize|
James J. Collins (June 26, 1965) is an American bioengineer, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator. He is one of the founders of the emerging field of synthetic biology, and a pioneering researcher in systems biology, having made fundamental discoveries regarding the actions of antibiotics and the emergence of antibiotic resistance.
Collins received a bachelor's degree in Physics (summa cum laude; class valedictorian) from the College of the Holy Cross in 1987 and a doctorate in Medical Engineering from the University of Oxford in 1990. From 1987 to 1990, he was a Rhodes Scholar. Since 1990, he has been a faculty member in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University. Currently, Collins is a William F. Warren Distinguished Professor, a University Professor, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, and Co-Director of the Center for BioDynamics at Boston University. He is also a core founding faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.
Collins' scientific accomplishments have been recognized by numerous awards, including the NIH Director's Pioneer Award, the Ellison Medical Foundation Senior Scholar Award in Aging, the inaugural Anthony J. Drexel $100,000 Exceptional Achievement Award, the Lagrange Prize from the CRT Foundation in Italy, and being selected for Technology Review's inaugural TR100 - 100 young innovators who will shape the future of technology - and the Scientific American 50 - the top 50 outstanding leaders in science and technology. He is also a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. In 2003, he received a MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award", becoming the first bioengineer to receive this honor. Collins' award citation noted, "Throughout his research, Collins demonstrates a proclivity for identifying abstract principles that underlie complex biological phenomena and for using these concepts to solve concrete, practical problems.". In 2008, Collins was selected as an HHMI Investigator, becoming the first BU faculty member to be honored with this distinction. He was also honored as a Medical All-Star by the Boston Red Sox, and threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game in Fenway Park. Collins was elected to the National Academy of Engineering for "contributions to synthetic biology and engineered gene networks", as well as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Collins is also a gifted and committed teacher. He has won numerous teaching awards at Boston University, including the Biomedical Engineering Teacher of the Year Award, the College of Engineering Professor of the Year Award, and the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching, which is the highest teaching honor awarded by Boston University.
Collins has been involved with a number of start-up companies, and his inventions and technologies have been licensed by several biotech and medical device companies. Collins currently chairs the Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of Sample6 Technologies and EnBiotix, and serves on the SAB of Joule Unlimited, Selventa, Seres Health, enEvolv, Synereca Pharmaceuticals, LifeWave Ltd, Excel Medical Ventures and PureTech Ventures, founded by Daphne Zohar. Additionally, he has served on the SAB of Mannkind Corporation (Nasdaq: MNKD), Codon Devices, Gene Network Sciences, Epitome Biosystems, Afferent Corp, Cellicon Biotechnologies and Bios Group Inc.
Collins ran track and cross country at Holy Cross (he was a 4:17 miler), and earned a blue playing for the varsity basketball team at the University of Oxford.
Collins has pioneered the development and use of nonlinear dynamical approaches to study, mimic and improve biological function, and helped to transform biology into an engineering science. His current research interests include: synthetic biology - modeling, designing and constructing synthetic gene networks, and systems biology - reverse engineering naturally occurring gene regulatory networks.
Collins has invented a number of novel devices and techniques, including vibrating insoles for enhancing balance, a prokaryotic riboregulator, bistable genetic toggle switches for biotechnology and bioenergy applications, dynamical control techniques for eliminating cardiac arrhythmias, and systems biology techniques for identifying drug targets and disease mediators.
Collins proposed that input noise could be used to enhance sensory function and motor control in humans. He and collaborators showed that touch sensation and balance control in young and older adults, patients with stroke, and patients with diabetic neuropathy could be improved with the application of sub-sensory mechanical noise, e.g., via vibrating insoles. This work has led to the creation of a new class of medical devices to address complications resulting from diabetic neuropathy, restore brain function following stroke, and improve elderly balance.
Collins has pioneered the use of techniques from nonlinear dynamics and molecular biology to model, design and construct engineered gene networks, leading to the development of the field of synthetic biology. Collins and collaborators have created genetic toggle switches, RNA switches, genetic counters, programmable cells, tunable mammalian genetic switches, and engineered bacteriophage, each with broad applications in biotechnology and biomedicine.
Collins is also one of the leading researchers in systems biology, pioneering the use of experimental-computational biophysical techniques to reverse engineer and analyze endogenous gene regulatory networks. Collins and collaborators showed that reverse-engineered gene networks can be used to identify drug targets, biological mediators and disease biomarkers.
Collins and collaborators discovered, using systems biology approaches, that all classes of bactericidal antibiotics induce a common oxidative damage cellular death pathway.  This finding indicates that targeting bacterials systems that remediate oxidative damage, including the SOS DNA damage response, is a viable means of enhancing the effectiveness of all major classes of antibiotics and limiting the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Collins and co-workers also discovered that sublethal levels of antibiotics activate mutagenesis by stimulating the production of reactive oxygen species, leading to multidrug resistance. This discovery has important implications for the widespread use and misuse of antibiotics. Recently, Collins and colleagues, using their systems approaches, discovered a population-based resistance mechanism constituting a form of kin selection whereby a small number of resistant bacterial mutants, in the face of antibiotic stress, can, at some cost to themselves, provide protection to other more vulnerable, cells, enhancing the survival capacity of the overall population in stressful environments.
- "MacArthur Fellows, October 2003". John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Reardon, Michael (winter 2007). "The Profile: James J. Collins Jr. '87". Holy Cross Magazine 41 (1). p. 80. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- "1999 Young Innovator, James Collins". Technology Review. November/December 1999. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- "Scientific American 50: SA 50 Winners and Contributors". Scientific American. 2005-11-21. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- Brick, Tricia (spring 2006). "Genius at Work". Bostonia. pp. 20–25. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
- Priplata, A; Niemi J, Harry J, Lipsitz LA and Collins JJ (04 Oct 2003). "Vibrating insoles and balance control in elderly people". The Lancet 362 (9390): 1123–1124. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)14470-4. PMID 14550702.
- Isaacs, FJ; Dwyer, DJ; Ding, C; Pervouchine, DD; Cantor, CR; Collins, JJ (2004). "Engineered riboregulators enable post-transcriptional control of gene expression". Nat Biotechnol 22 (7): 823–4 2004. doi:10.1038/nbt986. PMID 15208640.
- Gardner, TS; Cantor CR and Collins JJ (20 Jan 2000). "Construction of a genetic toggle switch in Escherichia coli". Nature 403 (6767): 339–342. doi:10.1038/35002131. PMID 10659857.
- Gardner, TS; di Bernardo D, Lorenz D and Collins JJ (04 Jul 2003). "Inferring genetic networks and identifying compound of action via expression profiling". Science 301 (5629): 102–105. doi:10.1126/science.1081900. PMID 12843395.
- di Bernardo, D; Thompson MJ, Gardner TS, Chobot SE, Eastwood EL, Wojtovich AP, Elliot SJ, Schaus SE and Collins JJ (March 2005). "Chemogenomic profiling on a genome-wide scale using reverse-engineered gene networks". Nature Biotechnology 23 (3): 377–383. doi:10.1038/nbt1075. PMID 15765094.
- Ergun, A; Lawrence CA, Kohanski MA, Brennan TA and Collins JJ (2007). "A network biology approach to prostate cancer". Molecular Systems Biology 3 (1): 82. doi:10.1038/msb4100125. PMC 1828752. PMID 17299418.
- Kohanski, MA; Dwyer DJ, Hayete B, Lawrence CA and Collins JJ. (2007). "A common mechanism of cellular death induced by bactericidal antibiotics.". Cell 130 (5): 797–810. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2007.06.049. PMID 17803904.
- Kohanski, MA; DePristo MA and Collins JJ. (2010). "Sublethal antibiotic treatment leads to multidrug resistance via radical-induced mutagenesis.". Molecular Cell 37 (3): 311–320. doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2010.01.003. PMC 2840266. PMID 20159551.
- Lee, HH; Molla MN, Cantor CR and Collins JJ. (2010). "Bacterial charity work leads to population-wide resistance.". Nature 467 (7311): 82–85. doi:10.1038/nature09354. PMC 2936489. PMID 20811456.