Dr. Basem Al-Shayeb received his Ph.D. working in the labs of 2020 Nobel Laureate Dr. Jennifer Doudna, Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and Molecular and Cell Biology, and Dr. Jillian Banfield, Professor in the Departments of Earth and Planetary Science and Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.
As a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, Basem applied computational approaches to the discovery and investigation of viruses and novel tools for biotechnological applications. His Ph.D. research has introduced a "paradigm shift" in our understanding of bacterial viruses by uncovering new groups of bacteriophages with huge genomes, including the largest documented, equipped with a wide variety of features typically associated with life and cellular organisms. This breakthrough opened multiple lines of research and was reported in Nature Magazine, highlighted as part of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Collection, recommended by faculty in f1000 prime, widely covered in the popular press (including the Atlantic, Gizmodo, arsTechnica, & IFLS), science blogs, and multiple highlights in Nature Reviews and in Nature Reviews Microbiology as "too big to be ignored", among other major scientific journals.
Basem also uses data mining to unleash the potential of such mobile elements to revolutionize biotechnology, medicine, crop production, and basic research. The first product of this effort, which was published in Science Magazine in 2020, yielded more compact and more versatile gene-editing technologies that they have shown to edit the DNA of bacteria, plants, and human cell lines, with a higher targeting capacity that also enables molecular diagnostics, and high promise for delivery into human and plant cells. This work was highlighted in the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Lecture, in addition to being featured by Nature, Nature Plants, Nature Biotechnology, Cell Molecular Plant, and more. In 2022, Basem expanded upon this line of work, culminating in a manuscript on the discovery, biochemistry, & structural insights of novel CRISPR-Cas systems and their development into gene-editing tools. This effort was published in Cell with features in Nature and Science Magazines. Overall, these inventions are poised to transform agricultural practices and disease treatment by enabling novel editing approaches and delivery options that are difficult to achieve or not even possible with previously described systems, and have been licensed towards biotechnology development deals valued at over $1.5 billion for leading CRISPR-focused companies.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Basem has contributed to multiple open-science efforts to develop economical methods for coronavirus surveillance in municipal wastewater, to study the coronaviruses circulating in our communities, and to establish more robust computational pipelines for viral pandemic detection. The latter resulted in a joint first-author publication in Nature Magazine, with a feature in Science.
Recently, Basem led the discovery of a new type of giant extrachromosomal element, which they named the Borgs, in a number of environments in California, Colorado, and other states. These elements carry numerous genes that were completely unknown to science, till now. Many Borg functionalities impact biogeochemical cycles and potentially play a role in the removal of greenhouse gases from our atmosphere, thereby aiding in climate change mitigation. This work was published in Nature Magazine and featured on the magazine cover. The research was further highlighted by the American Society for Microbiology’s popular podcast, This Week in Microbiology, and featured in Science Magazine, The Independent, SYFY, Quanta, The Scientist, C&EN, Futurism, Nature Magazine and other news outlets prior to publication.
Extra-chromosomal Genetic Elements
Microbial Physiology and Evolution
Natural Product Biosynthesis
Evolutionary and Rational Protein Design
Planetary Science & Astrobiology
Origin of Life
in situ Resource Utilization
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
University of California, Berkeley
B.S. Genetics, Cell Biology and Development
College of Biological Sciences
University of Minnesota- Twin Cities
International General Certificate of Secondary Education
Modern Education Schools, Cairo, Egypt
Evaluations administered by University of Cambridge, UK