McMillen, David R.

Ph.D. | Associate Professor | Chemistry | Biophysics and Physical Chemistry

Contact Information

905 828 5353
905 828 5425
Mailing Address: 
3359 Mississauga Road
Postal Code: 
L5L 1C6
McMillen Picture

Research Areas:

McMillen research

Synthetic biology, systems biology, cellular dynamics

Research Profile:

The Synthetic Biology and Cellular Control Laboratory seeks to create an engineering discipline within living cells.  We use molecular biology to design and experimentally implement biological “devices” that sense the internal states of cells, and respond to those states with outputs that change the cell’s dynamics in useful ways (implementing feedback control loops to regulate a protein’s expression level, for example).  We are using our interdisciplinary expertise to translate abstract mathematical results from fields like control theory into practical design procedures to be used in the context of biology.  We also have projects on expanding the library of available parts to be used in biological designs, including harnessing novel forms of biological regulation (like activating RNA) and developing new forms of regulatory targeting (like an engineered polymerase that can initiate transcription wherever desired).

The group has a strong and growing interest in the applied results of our research, particularly in the area of global health.  Current projects include inexpensive cell-based biosensors and protein production systems to be used in the developing world.

Courses Taught:

JCP221, JCP321, JCP322, and JCP410 (undergraduate); CHM1448 (graduate)


Mostafizur Mazumder, Katherine E. Brechun, Yongjoo B. Kim, Stefan A. Hoffmann, Yih Yang Chen, Carrie-Lynn Keiski, Katja M. Arndt, David R. McMillen and G. Andrew Woolley (McMillen and Woolley, co-senior authors) (2015).  An E. coli system for evolving improved light-controlled DNA-binding proteins.  Accepted (June 2015) in Protein Engineering, Design, and Selection.

Mostafizur Mazumder and David R. McMillen (2014).  Design and characterization of a dual-mode promoter with activation and repression capability for tuning gene expression in yeast.  Nucleic Acids Research 42 (14): 9514–9522.

Jordan Ang, Edouard Harris, Brendan J. Hussey, Richard Kil, and David R. McMillen (2013).  Tuning response curves for synthetic biology.  ACS Synthetic Biology 2: 547−567.

Jordan Ang and David R. McMillen (2013).  Physical constraints on biological integral control design for homeostasis and sensory adaptation.  Biophysical Journal 104: 505-515.

Jordan Ang, Brian P. Ingalls, and David R. McMillen (2011). Probing the input-output behavior of biological systems: system identification methods from control theory.  Methods in Enzymology 487 (Computer Methods, Part C): 279-317.

Sangram Bagh, Mahuya Mandal, and David R. McMillen (2011).  An active intracellular device to prevent lethal viral effects in bacteria.   Biotechnology and Bioengineering 108(3): 645-654.

Jordan Ang, Sangram Bagh, Brian P. Ingalls, and David R. McMillen (2010).  Considerations for using integral feedback control to construct a perfectly adapting synthetic gene network.  Journal of Theoretical Biology 266(4): 723-738.

Sangram Bagh, Mahuya Mandal, and David R. McMillen (2010).  Minimal genetic device with multiple tunable functions.  Physical Review E 82(2): 021911. 

Sangram Bagh and David R. McMillen (2010).  A synthetic genetic circuit whose signal-response curve is temperature-tunable from band-detection to sigmoidal behaviour.  Natural Computing 9: 991-1006.