Pamela A. Silver Ph.D.

Professor of Systems Biology
Phone Number:


Harvard Medical School
Department of Systems Biology
200 Longwood Avenue
Warren Alpert Building
Boston, MA 02115

Research Interests

We seek to both enhance our understanding of natural biological design, and to develop tools and concepts for designing cells, tissues and organisms.  In the long term, we hope to develop principles for building synthetic cells that act as sensors, memory devices, bio-computers, producers of high value commodities and energy from the sun, and to build novel subsystems such as proteins with designed properties for therapeutic use.  Current projects use mammalian cells, simple eukaryotes and prokaryotes.  Understanding how to program cells in a rational way will have value, for example, in stem cell design, drug therapy and the environment.  These experiments use a combination of theoretical and experimental approaches that are well suited to students with backgrounds in biology, engineering, or any allied field.


Pamela Silver is the Elliot T and Onie H Adams Professor of Biochemistry and Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.  She is also a full member of the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering.  She was one of the first members of the Department of Systems Biology and the first Director of the Harvard University Graduate Program in Systems Biology.  For more information see


Programming eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells; novel therapeutic design strategies, building a programmable human artificial chromosome, engineering the gut microbiota, designing sustainability by harnessing sunlight and carbon capture including development of the Bionic Leaf.  We also welcome new ideas and are always brainstorming about how we can improve on what biology has to offer.


Lab Environment

The Silver Lab works at the interface between systems and synthetic biology to design and build biological systems in both mammalian and prokaryotic cells.   We employ a wide range of approaches from computational to experimental – for example reconstructing entire new genomes.  Our lab is an eclectic mix of students and postdocs from varied backgrounds that enjoy life in and out of the lab and work collaboratively.  We seek to address ‘big’ unanswered questions that could have an impact of people and the word.  We also take advantage of all that Boston has to offer in terms of collaborations, resources and fun.



See for complete list of publications.

Select Publications:

Giessen TW, Silver PA.
Encapsulation as a Strategy for the Design of Biological Compartmentalization.
Journal of Molecular Biology.
Biteen JS, Blainey PC, Cardon ZG, Chun M, Church GM, Dorrestein PC, Fraser SE, Gilbert JA, Jansson JK, Knight R, Miller JF, Ozcan A, Prather KA, Quake SR, Ruby EG, Silver PA, Taha S, van den Engh G, Weiss PS, Wong GC, Wright AT, Young TD..
Tools for the Microbiome: Nano and Beyond..
ACS Nano.
Myhrvold C, Kotula JW, Hicks WM, Conway NJ, Silver PA..
A distributed cell division counter reveals growth dynamics in the gut microbiota.
Nat Commun.
Torella JP, Gagliardi CJ, Chen JS, Bediako DK, Colón B, Way JC, Silver PA & Nocera DG.
Efficient solar-to-fuels production from a hybrid microbial-water-splitting catalyst system.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.
In Press
Green AA, Silver PA, Collins JJ, Yin P.
Toehold switches: de-novo-designed regulators of gene expression.
Burrill DR, Inniss MC, Boyle PC & Silver PA.
Synthetic memory circuits for tracking human cell fate.
Genes & Development.
Savage, D.F., Afonso, B., Chen, A. & Silver, P.A..
Spatially ordered dynamics of the bacterial carbon fixation machinery.