Khalid Alam

Project: Freeze-dried biosensors for water quality and the energy-water nexus

Khalid K. Alam is cofounder and CEO of Stemloop, a synthetic biology startup that is unlocking the power of biological sensors. In 2016, Khalid received his Doctorate in Biochemistry and Graduate Certificate in Life Science Innovation and Entrepreneurship from the University of Missouri, where he built computational and biomolecular tools to address a number of problems ranging from high-throughput sequence analysis to targeted drug delivery. As a graduate student, Khalid developed and published the first easy-to-use and open-source bioinformatic toolkit for combinatorial selections (“FASTAptamer”), which remains in active use throughout the aptamer research and development field. Khalid also developed the first genetically-encoded visualization tools (“Split-Broccoli”) for monitoring RNA-RNA hybridization in living cells, and applied these tools to study the targeted delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics to cancer cell lines. Additionally, Khalid leveraged his expertise in aptamer selection, high-throughput sequencing, biochemistry, and bioinformatics to identify and characterize RNA broad-spectrum inhibitors of HIV-1.

 

After completing his Ph.D., Khalid joined the Julius B. Lucks Laboratory for RNA Engineering at Northwestern University’s Center for Synthetic Biology and Center for Water Research. As a Postdoctoral Fellow, Khalid led the Lucks Lab’s efforts in developing diagnostics using cutting-edge advances in synthetic biology and cell-free systems. Together with the Jewett Lab at Northwestern and the Collins Lab at MIT, Khalid has invented and developed a number of biosensing technologies, including freeze-dried, cell-free biosensors for heavy metals, drugs, and pesticides. These low-cost and easy-to-use sensors are now being tested around the world in collaboration with field researchers, environmental engineers, and anthropologists. In addition to his academic research, Khalid is a cofounder of ChiTownBio, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to making biotechnology accessible to all Chicagoans.