James J. Collins

Core Faculty
Phone: (617) 324-6607
Email: jimjc@mit.edu
Website: Collins Lab
Lab Phone: (617) 324-6607
Lab Fax: (617) 253-7498
room: E25-337
MIT address: 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139
Administrative Assistant: Michelle Antunes
assistant phone: (617) 258-0866
assistant email: mantunes@mit.edu

James J. Collins

Core Faculty


  • Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science, IMES, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Professor of Biological Engineering, MIT
  • Institute Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
  • Core Founding Faculty, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University


James J. Collins is the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science as well as Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT. He is also affiliated with the Broad Institute and the Wyss Institute. His research group works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance. Professor Collins’ patented technologies have been licensed by over 25 biotech, pharma and medical devices companies, and he has helped to launched a number of companies, including Sample6 Technologies, Synlogic and EnBiotix. He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Rhodes Scholarship, a MacArthur “Genius” Award, an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, a Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award, as well as several teaching awards. Professor Collins is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

Dr. Collins is developing innovative ways to reprogram organisms, particularly bacteria, to perform desired tasks, such as detecting and treating infections. These programmed bacteria could lead to cheaper drugs, rapid diagnostic tests, and more effective treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections and a range of complex diseases. This work is part of the new field of synthetic biology, which Jim founded by combining science and engineering to construct biological circuits that can program organisms, much like we program computers now.


  • PhD in Medical Engineering, University of Oxford
  • AB in Physics, College of the Holy Cross

selected awards/societies

  • Dickson Prize for Medicine, 2020
  • Allen Distinguished Investigator, 2016
  • HFSP Nakasone Award, Human Frontier Science Program, 2015
  • Robert A. Pritzker Award, Biomedical Engineering, 2014
  • Elected to the National Academy of Sciences, 2014
  • Genome Engineering & Synthetic Biology Innovator Award, GeneExpression Systems, 2014
  • Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2013
  • Elected Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, 2012
  • Sanofi-Institut Pasteur Award, 2012
  • Innovator of the Year, Boston University, 2012
  • Kern Faculty Fellow, Boston University, 2012
  • Elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2012
  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2012
  • Elected to the National Academy of Engineering, 2011
  • Czernin Palace Bronze Memorial Medal, Czech Republic, 2011
  • National Collegiate Inventors Competition First Prize (student-advisor team), 2011
  • Irish Education 100, Irish Voice: top 100 Irish Americans in Education, 2011
  • Bronze Award for Scientific Achievement, US Army Research, 2010
  • Elected Fellow of the World Technology Network, 2010


The Collins Lab works in synthetic biology and systems biology, with a particular focus on using network biology approaches to study antibiotic action, bacterial defense mechanisms, and the emergence of resistance.

Synthetic Biology

In synthetic biology, we have used techniques and principles from nonlinear dynamics and molecular biology to design and construct synthetic gene networks. We have created genetic toggle switches, RNA switches, programmable cells, genetic counters, genetic timers, kill switches for microbes, engineered bacteriophage to combat bacterial infections, and tunable mammalian genetic switches, each with broad applications in medicine and biotechnology.

Systems Biology and Antibiotics

In systems biology, we have developed and implemented dynamical techniques to reverse engineer and analyze naturally occurring gene regulatory networks. We have shown that these reconstructed networks can be used to identify the genetic mediators of a given disease or biological process, as well as the biomolecular targets of a therapeutic compound.

selected publications

  • A. Chavez, J. Scheiman, S. Vora, B. W. Pruitt, M. Tuttle, E. P. R. Iyer, S. Lin, S. Kiani, C. D. Guzman, D. J. Wiegand, D. Ter-Ovanesyan, J. L. Braff, N. Davidsohn, B. E. Housden, N. Perrimon, R. Weiss, J. Aach, J. J. Collins, and G. M. Church. “Highly efficient Cas9-mediated transcriptional programming.” Nature Methods 12 (2015): 326-28.
  • A. J. Keung, J. K. Joung, A. S. Khalil, and J. J. Collins. “Chromatin regulation at the frontier of synthetic biology.” Nature Reviews Genetics 16 (2015): 159-71.
  • D. E. Cameron and J. J. Collins. “Tunable protein degradation in bacteria.” Nature Biotechnology 32 (2014): 1276-81.
  • K. Pardee, A. A. Green, T. Ferrante, D. E. Cameron, A. DaleyKeyser, P. Yin, and J. J. Collins. “Paper-based synthetic gene networks.” Cell 159 (2014): 940-54.
  • A. A. Green, P. A. Silver, J. J. Collins, and P. Yin. “Toehold switches: de-novo-designed regulators of gene expression.” Cell 159 (2014): 925-39.

A full list of Dr. Collins’ publications can be found on the Collins Lab website.

courses taught

  • Taught over 1500 bioengineering undergraduates in the classroom
  • Mentored over 150 undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs in the lab. Collins’ trainees have become faculty members at leading universities, such as MIT, Harvard,Princeton and Yale, and leaders at major biotech and medical device companies