What’s New?

September 1 2019:

New Beginnings for Lab Alumnus!

Huge congratulations to Dr. Javier Fernandez Juarez this month for successfully establishing his own research laboratory at St. John’s University in New York City!


Javier joined our synthetic microbiology initiative in late 2016, after completing his postdoctoral research in the Church Lab at Harvard. At the Johnston Lab (Cambridge, MA) he sought to expand our SyngenicDNA platforms and create novel synthetic “kill-switch” circuits for biocontainment of engineered organisms.

He joins St. Johns University as an Assistant Professor within the Biological Sciences Department. The new Juarez lab will focus on the construction of whole-cell biosensors that can be applied early detection of pollutants and disease biomarkers.

We are very proud of his achievements! Well done Javier!

June 28 2019:

We are hiring!

Research Technician II, Computational Analyses of Microbial Data Sets


The laboratory of Dr. Susan Bullman and the laboratory Dr. Christopher Johnston are establishing a research program that utilizes state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technologies to study microbial epigenetics and the microbiome of human cancers and other diseases. These labs seek to jointly recruit a highly motivated research technician II with expertise in next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies (library preparation) and computational analyses of multi-omics data (running bioinformatic tools on raw NGS data).

You can apply here!

May 21 2019:

Our SyngenicDNA paper is out in PNAS!

Final SynDNA

Restriction-Modification systems are powerful defense mechanisms that bacteria use to recognize and degrade nonself DNA during predatory bacteriophage attack. The problem is that human-made genetic tools are also recognized as nonself DNA and degraded during genetic engineering. We use synthetic microbiology to create stealthy or “invisible” genetic tools that evade these defenses altogether. Can’t attack nonself DNA if you don’t know it’s there! Read all about our SyngenicDNA and SyMPL work here!

April 29 2019:

Welcome to new Research Technician Dakota Jones!

Johnston Lab Picture

Dakota joins the lab to assist with ongoing single-molecule real-tim(SMRT) genome sequencing  efforts and multiple  synthetic microbiology projects.

Dakota completed his B.S. in Cell and Molecular Biology from Missouri State University (Springfield, MO) in 2015. Primarily a human health focused program, he was exposed to molecular biology techniques ranging from protein science to nucleic acid science. He focused his undergraduate research on characterizing NER protein pathways, with a specific interest in knocking-out the protein Rad 16 (involved in differential repair of DNA after UV damage) in the model organism Tetrahymena thermophila.

Welcome Dakota!

April 4 2019:

Welcome to new Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Martha Zepeda Rivera!


Martha joins the lab to work on the delineation of the innate genetic defense systems of bacterial species and the design, development, and implementation of methodologies to bypass these systems during genetic engineering.

Martha’s graduate research was conducted at Harvard University in the laboratory of Dr. Karine Gibbs, and focused on the mechanistic understanding how cells of the bacterium Proteus mirabilis communicate self identity to differentiate and exclude different P. mirabilis strains and harness the power of a coordinated population.

Welcome Martha!

April 1 2019:

The move from Boston to Seattle is complete!

The PacBio Sequencer is happy in it’s new home in Seattle and we are currently seeking candidates to join our team and help us feed the machine (DNA Sequencing Technology and Microbiology Technician)Website1

February 13 2019:

They grow up so fast!

Huge congratulations to Sean Cotton for successfully transitioning from academia to industry this month.


Sean (the first official alumnus of the Johnston lab) spent close to 2 years working with us as our staff scientist, figuring out and single-handedly running our PacBio sequencer, honing his synthetic micro skills, and driving our CRISPR projects forward. He begins his new career with Synlogic Therapeutics as a Strain Engineer next week! Awesome work Sean, we will miss you on the West Coast!

January 25 2019:

We are hiring!

Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Synthetic Microbiology & Genetic Engineering


The Johnston Laboratory in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is recruiting a highly motivated and creative Post-Doctoral Fellow to conduct research relating to synthetic microbiology and microbial genetics / epigenetics. The successful candidate will be involved with delineation of the innate genetic defense systems of bacterial species and the design, development, and implementation of methodologies to bypass these systems during genetic engineering. This position will be funded under an NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award (TR01) research grant entitled “The SyngenicDNA and µPOET Platform: Overcoming Innate Barriers to Genetic Engineering in Bacteria.”

Here is the link to the full posting: https://careers-fhcrc.icims.com/jobs/12818/

January 14 2019:

Very cool to see our SyngenicDNA preprint detailed and summarized nicely by Jonas Korlach, Chief Scientific Officer at Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) during the (4th Annual Microbiology and Immunology Virtual Conference). Fascinating to hear of other developments in the epigentic space, our method is detailed right around the 28 minute mark.

January 8 2019:

Happy New Year! In April 2019 the Johnston Lab will be relocating to Seattle, WA.

seattle_kerry_park_skyline.jpgAfter an amazing 2 years at the The Forsyth Institute, Boston, the lab is shipping out to the west coast to join The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Fred Hutch) within the Department of Vaccine and Infectious Disease.

Come work with us in Seattle: As always, we’re looking for highly motivated, hard-working and enthusiastic people to come work with us in our new location. We especially encourage those from backgrounds poorly represented in STEM fields to apply to the lab. We will be advertising several positions soon (research technician / computational biologist / postdoctoral researcher) but welcome applications year-round.

August 9 2018:

Wondering what SyngenicDNA is all about? Now you can find out. Our pre-print on SyngenicDNA is available as of today!:



August 6 2018: 

Huge congrats to synthetic microbiology team member Javier on his new Nature Communications manuscript “Biosensor libraries harness large classes of binding domains for construction of allosteric transcriptional regulators“, hot off the press today!


You can read it right here! (and email Javier when you have questions).

July 6 2018:

Welcome to this years Forsyth Student Scholars! Deepti and Sina joined the lab to work on a novel restriction-modification (RM) system sub-type identified by the Johnston Lab. Over the next 8 weeks they will work with their mentors Sean and Javier to figure out how this new type of RM system works! Exciting stuff!


Each year we accept student applications for summer internships through the Forsyth Student Scholars Program (formally EOP program): https://www.forsyth.org/forsyth-student-scholars-program

June 6 2018:

As a 2017 TRA awardee, Chris attended and presented a poster at the 2018 NIH High-Risk, High-Reward symposium in Bethesda, MD.

Details of next years exciting funding opportunities through the Common Fund can be found here!


March 7 2018:

The Johnston lab is seeking postdoctoral applications through the Forsyth Institute’s T90/R90 Institutional Postdoctoral Training award. Details can be found here! Interested individuals should contact us directly.

December 15, 2017:

The PacBio Sequel is up and running! Lots of genomes and methylomes coming soon.

Pacific Biosystems Sequel product 20150910_7820_PacBio_Sequel.CR2

November 20, 2017:

Dr. Javier Fernández-Juárez joins the Johnston Lab group at Forsyth Institute as a Staff Research Investigator, bringing exciting skill sets and his biosensor expertise to the synthetic microbiology group at Forsyth.

October 5, 2017:

The prestigious NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award has been granted to Forsyth Investigator Christopher Johnston and his colleagues and will be administered by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The grant recognizes exceptionally creative scientists pursuing high-risk, high-reward research that spans multiple disciplines and has the potential to challenge current paradigms. Johnston is one of eight investigators selected to receive this year’s award, which is open to scientists at all career stages. He is also among the program’s youngest grantees since its launch in 2009.

HRHR TRA final graphic3

A research team led by the Forsyth Institute today received a $5.4 million award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pursue revolutionary research of microbes living in the mouth and within the human body. The research has the potential to accelerate work in diverse fields, including medicine, synthetic biology, agriculture and environmental sciences.