Kim S. Wise, PhD


My studies at MU examined the basis for adaptive variation among bacteria with very small genomes. Lacking sophisticated sensory systems for adaptive gene regulation, these organisms utilize a system of stochastic, reversible and localized mutations that lead to random combinatorial expression patterns of surface architecture. Arrays of surface proteins encoded by these “contingency genes” result in complex and highly variable populations whose adaptive behavior relies on the generation of diversity and survival of variants, rather than programmed environmental sensory systems.

In recent years I have been with the Synthetic Biology team at the J. Craig Venter Institute,using one of these small-genome organisms as a model to design, synthesize and further reduce its gene content, thereby creating the smallest genome known to support a self-replicating cell. Understanding and modeling this synthetic cell should reveal first principles of cellular life.

Academic Information

Professor Emeritus

Research Interests

  • Synthetic biology
  • Genomics
  • Minimal cellular life
  • Adaptive variation

Areas of Expertise

  • Bacterial genetics and pathogenesis

Related Links

Education & Training

Post-Graduate School

1973, PhD, University of Southern California