Steering and controlling evolution — from bioengineering to fighting pathogens

M. Lässig, V. Mustonen and A. Nourmohammad,  Nature Reviews Genetics,  2023.

Control interventions steer the evolution of molecules, viruses, microorganisms or other cells towards a desired outcome. Applications range from engineering biomolecules and synthetic organisms to drug, therapy and vaccine design against pathogens and cancer. In all these instances, a control system alters the eco-evolutionary trajectory of a target system, inducing new functions or suppressing escape evolution. Here, we synthesize the objectives, mechanisms and dynamics of eco-evolutionary control in different biological systems. We discuss how the control system learns and processes information about the target system by sensing or measuring, through adaptive evolution or computational prediction of future trajectories. This information flow distinguishes pre-emptive control strategies by humans from feedback control in biotic systems. We establish a cost–benefit calculus to gauge and optimize control protocols, highlighting the fundamental link between predictability of evolution and efficacy of pre-emptive control.

More related to this: