The cutting edge of Synthetic Botany reviewed by OpenPlant researchers

Cambridge researchers including OpenPlant Director Prof Jim Haseloff  and OpenPlant PI Dr Nicola Patron (Earlham Institute) have reviewed the state of art and future prospects for Synthetic Botany - the application of synthetic biology to engineering nuclear and chloroplast genomes in plants.

Plants represent the only available platform allowing sustainable bioproduction at the gigatonne scale. Combining modular body plans and developmental plasticity with capacity for photosynthesis and extensive secondary metabolism, plants are highly attractive targets for genetic engineering. However, efforts in this area have been complicated by slow growth rates, physiological complexity, and technical challenges in the handling and manipulation of plants. Furthermore, better experimental and theoretical frameworks are needed to dissect and understand the hierarchies of genetic and physical interactions shaping their multicellular behavior.  

Joint first-authors Christian Boehm and Bernardo Pollak and colleagues reviewed the state of the art in genetic engineering of the nuclear and chloroplast genomes in plants, and highlight new approaches to harnessing their potential as custom agronomic systems for large-scale production. In particular, they show how simple plant models like the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha - combined with standard DNA parts and advanced quantitative imaging technqiues - can bridge the complexity gap between microbes and higher plants. Synthetic genetic circuits proven in Marchantia may serve as valuable tools for addressing some of the major challenges in plant metabolic engineering such as the introduction of C4 photosynthesis in C3 crops or the refactoring of nitrogen fixation pathways.

Boehm CR, Pollak B, Purswani N, Patron N & Haseloff J. (2017) Synthetic Biology. CSH Perspect Biol a023887o

[Closes 23 Apr 2017] Research & Outreach Manager at Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre

The Warwick Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre (WISB) is looking for a Research & Outreach Manager. This post will suit a candidate with a background in research who wishes to develop a career in research programme management, learning and/or applying skills in financial oversight, grant proposal writing, research communication and outreach activities. The closing date for applications is 23rd April 2017.

Details can be found on

[Closes 17 Apr 2017] Applications Scientist - Edinburgh Genome Foundry

[Closes 17-Apr-2017] Applications Scientist - Edinburgh Genome Foundry

We need a talented Application Scientist for the Edinburgh Genome Foundry (EGF), a facility for automated and high-throughput DNA assembly technologies based in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh.

Are you looking for a unique role working in one of today’s most exciting and rapidly developing areas of science? Are you keen to get involved with the rise of automation in the lab? Then this is the role for you.

As Application Scientist you will be the responsible biologist for translating and delivering customer orders for large-scale DNA assembly using our robotic platform.

Candidates must have a graduate degree in biology plus substantial experience in relevant work. Knowledge of synthetic biology and experience with automated equipment is essential. This is an exciting opportunity to play a fundamental role in the success of an exciting and technologically advanced UK facility.

Please note that the deadline for applications is being extended to late April.

Search for Job reference number: 039193 at

For further information contact Dr Hille Tekotte

Cambridge Science Festival Stand 2.0 – Improved Design!

A family discover how proteins are made following instructions in the DNA, with the help of Nadia Radzman and DNA Dave the robot.

A family discover how proteins are made following instructions in the DNA, with the help of Nadia Radzman and DNA Dave the robot.

In 2016 we designed a new stand for the Cambridge Science Festival and were delighted with the excellent feedback and the award won by the plant and life sciences marquee where our stand and team scored exceptionally highly with a 94.3% public approval rating! We decided to build on the game we had developed, using cardboard boxes, which explains the process of transcription and translation into something bigger and better (and more professional!). We applied for an Outreach Grant from the Biochemical Society to enable us to work with a designer to realise our ultimate game and were delighted to be successful! In December 2016 a group of enthusiastic scientists met with designer Molly Barrett to begin work. Scientists Ioannis Tamvakis and Nadia Radzman provided excellent ideas for representing the scientific process, and coding an arduino to build in the electronic outputs we wanted and then the build began and at the beginning of March we were introduced to DNA Dave, the robot! 

We were very excited to give Dave his debut at the 2017 Cambridge Science Festival and we were not disappointed! The public were really keen to see what the robot could do and the process of transcription and translation of DNA to proteins was very well explained by operating Dave’s buttons, cogs and switches. We will be taking Dave to future events and he is also available for hire! You can follow his travels on Twitter using #DNAdave.

The team celebrate the end of an excellent day.

The team celebrate the end of an excellent day.

Just add water: creating protein in a test tube with cell-free synthetic biology

Science Practice’s interest in synthetic biology goes back to the Arsenic Biosensor Collaboration, and recently we were back in Jim Haseloff’s lab to learn about a new development called cell-free synthetic biology. This technology made headlines when it was used to create a low-cost, paper-based diagnostic test for the Zika virus. We’re interested in paper-based diagnostics (see SoilCards) and portable technology that could enable lab analysis in the field, like the MinION. Because of our work in this area were we asked to co-convene a workshop called “Programmable biology in the test tube”, which was organised by Jenny Molloy from the Strategic Research Initiative for Synthetic Biology at Cambridge.

This is a guest post by Dr Tempest van Schaik from Science Practice. Follow her @Dr_Tempest!

Traditionally, synthetic biology has involved genetically engineering bacteria to do our bidding: producing a useful protein (for example a protein that is fluorescent) from a blueprint (DNA in the form of a plasmid). Cell-free synthetic biology means extracting the machinery that bacteria like E. coli use to produce protein from the DNA blue-print (the machinery for transcription and translation), and leaving the cell behind. There are numerous technical reasons why this is preferable, but the real-world consequences that we’re most excited about are that devices that use synthetic biology sensors 1) don’t need to be kept refrigerated, which means they can be transported long distances to reach rural places, and 2) are not restricted in use in the same way as whole genetically modified organisms.

Our day in Cambridge University’s Department of Plant Sciences included talks and a workshop. True to the open, collaborative, multi-disciplinary spirit of the OpenPlant initiative, there was a diverse group of attendees from the bio-hacking community, and even those in software engineering and economics.


Vincent Noireaux presents his cell-free synthetic biology work at the workshop: Programmable Biology in the Test Tube


Things you see in a plant lab. Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge University.

The workshop was led by Vincent Noireaux (University of Minnesota), and hosted by Jim Haseloffand Fernan Federici. We worked from Vincent’s paper, “The All E.coli TX-TL Toolbox 2.0: A Platform for Cell-Free Synthetic Biology.


 FollowScience Practice @sciencepractice

Just add water...we're making GFP in a test tube! #cellfree#synbio @synbioSRI"


Each group of attendees was given a different cell-free gene-circuit to create. In the end we reviewed whether our gene-circuit was behaving correctly by using a microplate reader to look at the kinetics of expression of green fluorescent protein.


Kinetics of expression of green fluorescent protein produced by our gene-circuit


Groups gather round and discuss their results with Vincent.

It was easy to construct these gene-circuits on the lab bench, even for non-experts. We’re really excited to see a new generation of paper-based diagnostics that use cell-free synbio sensors. Thanks to Jim, Jenny, and Fernan for having us!

Keynote and Public Lecture: Possibilities for achieving food security in Africa by 2050


Mar 27, 2017

09:30 AM to 12:00 PM

Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge University, Downing St, Cambridge CB2 3EA

JR Biotek Foundation, a charitable organisation founded by Carol Ibe, a PhD student at the Department of Plant Sciences (Uta Paszkowski's Lab) is pleased to co-organize a Molecular Laboratory Training Workshop for twenty Africa-based agricultural research scientists and academics. The workshop will take place at the Department of Plant Sciences from 27th March to 3rd April 2017.

On Monday, 27th March, the training workshop will begin with a keynote lecture delivered by Professor Sir David Baulcombe (Head, Department of Plant Sciences, Cambridge University). The title of his keynote lecture is "Future possibilities for plant biotechnology in Africa."

The keynote will be followed by four exciting short research talks titled;

"Unlocking new water sources for improving agricultural productivity and food security” - Professor Mark Tester, KAUST, Saudi Arabia

"Genetic mapping in rice and relevance to African agriculture” – Dr.
Adam Price, University of Aberdeen, UK

"The Push-Pull Platform for Overcoming Constraints to Increasing Small Holder Farmer Production“ – Professor John Pickett, Rothamsted Research, UK (

Everyone is welcome to attend. To book your place, please visit

Report on Synthetic biology start-ups in the UK and worldwide

On 2nd December 2016, Cambridge Consultants published a report prepared for the UK Synthetic Biology Leadership Council, on Synthetic biology start-ups in the UK and worldwide.

The report highlights that the UK has a vibrant SynBio start-up community, leading in Europe and second only to the US and that SynBio tools are the larfgest sector, including strain engineering, hardware and DNA synthesis.

The full report can be found here:

[Closes 21 April 2017] OpenPlant Research Associate in Prof. Alison Smith's lab, Cambridge University

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate position in Prof. Alison Smith's lab as part of the Cambridge OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Centre. OpenPlant is a joint initiative between the University of Cambridge, John Innes Centre, TSL and the Earlham Institute, funded by BBSRC and EPSRC, which promotes interdisciplinary exchange, open technologies and responsible innovation for sustainable agriculture and conservation.

This position is aimed at generating novel regulatory elements based on riboswitches for plant and algal biotechnology. Riboswitches are sequences within the mRNA that respond to metabolites or other small molecules to alter production of the encoded protein, and offer flexible and tuneable elements to control transgene expression.

You will join the multidisciplinary team in central Cambridge at the Department of Plant Sciences, where the group focuses on a range of algal molecular biology and biotechnology projects. The principal tasks will be:

i) To identify riboswitches from diverse organisms that have already been characterised and shown to regulate transgene expression in their native hosts. These RNA sensors will be used in the generation of new expression platforms that allow metabolite-inducible expression of transgenes. To meet this objective the design, construction and testing of the different elements of these expression platforms will follow synthetic biology principled approaches.

ii) To test the responsiveness of the different riboswitches for the control of transgene expression in different photosynthetic eukaryotic organisms (including microalgae and plants).

Experience in recombinant DNA techniques is essential. Knowledge of systems or synthetic biology is highly desirable, as is familiarity with microbiology, metabolic engineering, and/or metabolism. The successful candidate should have the capacity to communicate effectively, work as part of a team, and take a lead role in the design and execution of the research programme as required. In addition, the PDRA will be expected to be involved in supporting junior scientists in the laboratory. You should hold a PhD in a relevant subject.

  • Salary: £29,301-£38,183
  • Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 2 years, in the first instance.
  • Closing date: 21 April 2017
  • Download: Further details
  • You can apply online for this vacancy. You will need to register an account (if you have not already) and log in before completing the online application form.
  • Please upload your CV with publication list, and covering letter to support your application.
  • Please quote reference PD11744 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The interviews are scheduled to be held in the week beginning 8 May 2017.

Please note if you have not received any news from us 1 month after the closing date you should consider that on this occasion your application has been unsuccessful.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

How can we share solutions to complex systems problems across domains and application areas?

What do power networks, transportation hubs, weather patterns, commercial organisations and swarming robots have in common?

For those seeking to understand, manipulate or build these systems, their 'complex' nature often demands approaches going beyond reductionist scientific models or traditional engineering design methods. These complex systems are often considered to be intractable because of their unpredictability, non-linearity, interconnectivity, heterarchy and 'emergence'. Although in many cases these attributes are framed as a problem, there are also cases in which they can be exploited to encourage intelligent, robust, self-organising behaviours. 

To date, discourse on 'complexity' has tended to originate from the scientific domains taking a systems perspective, such as Systems Biology, Network Science and Complexity Science. This discourse emphasises the need for a more integrated, 'holistic' approach to understanding systems. Findings from these domains serve as the foundations for several emerging technologies and emerging disciplines, such as synthetic biology, socio-technical systems engineering, and swarm robotics. 

More broadly, engineers, designers, managers and policy-makers across all sectors need to be able to think in terms of complex systems to be able to address the problems that we are facing.

But what does it mean to describe systems as complex? How do these complex systems differ from the more easily understood ‘modular’ systems that we are familiar with? 

Vocabulary in this area is often dangerously inconsistent. For example, the terms 'emergence', 'complex', and 'complicated' are used differently by different disciplines, and often differently even within the same discipline. This makes it very difficult to understand whether people are really talking about the same thing, and whether the systems being described are different in superficial or profound ways. On the one hand, failing to identify the underlying similarities between systems (whether modular or complex) results in missed opportunities for sharing knowledge, best practices and methods. On the other hand, failing to identify the underlying differences between different systems results in practices and methods being misapplied

To address problems with translating between disciplines, Chih-Chun Chen and Nathan Crilly at the  Cambridge Engineering Design Centre have published ‘A primer on the design and science of complex systems’.This introduces complex system constructs by building them up from basic concepts, and contrasting them with more familiar constructs that are associated with modularity. For example, 'emergence' can be understood with respect to a breakdown in how a system’s functions are mapped to the structures that perform those functions. Abstract diagrams that are independent of any particular domain are used to represent the constructs that are discussed. These are illustrated with worked examples to make the explanations more accessible for those who have no experience with 'complexity'. The primer is intended to provide both an introduction to complex systems constructs for those new to the topics discussed, and also a basis for cross-domain translations for researchers and practitioners wishing to engage with other fields when addressing the systems problems they are working on.


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. If you use this content on your site please link back to this page. For image use please see separate credits above.


New Report release Webinar from National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (March 9th, 2017)

Preparing for Future Products of Biotechnology, a consensus report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, was released on Thursday, March 9, 2017.

View Release Presentation Slides Here

The report describes the new types of biotechnology products likely to emerge over the next 5-10 years and assesses whether future products could pose different types of risks relative to existing products. It also identifies the scientific capabilities, tools, and expertise needed to support the oversight of these products by the U.S. regulatory system.

The Webinar Recording Will Be Posted Soon

The report release briefing featured:

– Welcome and introductions

  • Bruce B. Darling, Executive Officer, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

– A presentation by the Chair of the report’s authoring committee

  • Dr. Richard M. Murray, Member of the National Academy of Engineering, Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology

– A Q&A session with study committee members

  • Dr. Richard M. Murray, Member of the National Academy of Engineering, Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, California Institute of Technology
  • Dr. Steven P. Bradbury, Professor of Environmental Toxicology, Iowa State University
  • Dr. Mary E. Maxon, Biosciences Area Principal Deputy, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

(Closes March 31st 2017) Deep Science Ventures 6-month venture building Program

(Closes March 31st 2017) Deep Science Ventures 6-month venture building program

Deep Science Ventures offers a paid and fully funded 6-month venture building program to change the world.


Because you want to do what you love, own it and have a real chance at making
an impact. There are far too many grand problems waiting for sustainable

For Whom

Scientists, engineers, medics with deep domain expertise and obsession to
make an impact. You will also have interest in starting a company. No idea required.


A place where you'll find best possible ingredients to create a deep science

• Founders: 30 talented candidates with deep domain expertise
• Funding: 3-month stipend + £30k investment each for 5-10 teams
• Facilities: Wet labs + prototyping space
• Process: Ongoing support from experienced venture partners and
dedicated specialist mentors
• Ownership: You own your IP



Join full time as a Founder or one-day per week as an Executive Fellow. Find out more about
how it works at

Cafe Synthetique, CRISPR: Genome editing comes of age

Café Synthetique is the monthly meetup for the Cambridge synthetic biology community with informal talks, discussion and pub snacks.

This months' theme will focus on genetic circuit engineering, which is the synthesis of unnatural DNA segments encoding protein or RNA molecules that control each other’s levels. Come along and learn more about this exciting technology! 

We have two excellent speakers whose work focuses respectively on the use of CRISPR and the design of genetic circuits, and the application of cell engineering in Bioprocess.  

Free bar snacks and good conversation provided!


Talks and speakers

"Using CRISPR in Cancer research" 

Dr Alisdair Russell, Cambridge Cancer Centre

Alasdair heads up a specialised team that provide a centralised ‘Hub’ for the innovation and application of state-of-the-art Genome Editing technologies to complex, patient-relevant model systems in a pre-clinical setting. They use these novel models in a range of pre-clinical trials to advance our understanding of disease. 

"Advances in genome editing: could we design the perfect cell line for
the manufacture of biotherapeutics?"

Dr Bruno Fievet, Senior Scientist, Applied R&D, Horizon

Bruno works as part of Products Division for applications in Bioprocess, and is using leading edge genome editing technology to develop new mammalian host cell lines for the Bioprocess Industry.  


For more information, and to RSVP, click here.

[Closes 3rd May 2017] Grand Challenges Explorations - Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is inviting proposals for the latest round of Grand Challenges Explorations.

Grand Challenges Explorations fosters early-stage discovery research to expand the pipeline of ideas for solving our greatest global health and development challenges. Launched in 2008 with an initial $100 million commitment from the foundation, Grand Challenges Explorations grants have already been awarded to more than 1200 researchers in more than 65 countries.

Applicants can be at any experience level; in any discipline; and from any organization, including colleges and universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies. Initial grants will be US $100,000 each, and projects showing promise will have the opportunity to receive additional funding of up to US $1 million.

The Grand Challenges Exploration team are accepting applications on the following four topics until May 3, 2017:

Full descriptions of the new topics and application instructions in English, French, Korean, Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish will be available very soon. These two blogs may also prove useful: Innovation for an Interconnected Laboratory System and Improving Timeliness and Completeness of Routine Immunizations in Low-Resource Settings Will Save Lives.

For details and application instructions, please visit the Grand Challenges website.

The Grand Challenges Exploration Team look forward to receiving innovative ideas from around the world and from all disciplines. If you have a great idea, please apply. If you know someone else who may have a great idea, please forward this message.

[Closes 3rd Apr 2017] Postdoctoral Researcher: Earlham Institute (EI), Norwich, United Kingdom

Opportunity for an outstanding post-doctoral scientist within the Patron Group at the Earlham Institute (EI) to work on a collaborative project with the O'Connor group at the John Innes Centre (JIC).

Employer: The Earlham Institute


Location: Norwich, United Kingdom

Posted: 14 days ago

Expires: April 03, 2017

Job type: Postdoctoral

Salary Unspecified Qualifications: Postgraduate - Doctorate/PhD

Employment type: Contract

Job hours: Full-time

Postdoctoral Researcher


The candidate must have a comprehensive understanding of methods used in heterologous gene expression, a good understanding of plant secondary metabolism and laboratory skills in molecular biology and biochemistry.

The project aims to improve heterologous plant production chassis and to contribute to our understanding of how the rich endogenous metabolism of plants detoxifies foreign molecules. Specifically, the post holder will use RNA-guided Cas9 and virus-induced gene silencing to introduce mutations and downregulate endogenous genes predicted to interfere with or prevent heterologous expression of proteins and metabolites. This will pave the way for more effective plant production chassis for efficient production of proteins and small molecules, including vaccines and human therapies.

The post-holder will contribute to the selection of gene targets, construct design and assembly, genotyping, heterologous expression, and quantification of heterologously expressed proteins and metabolites. Technical assistance will be provided for the generation of genome-engineered plants and the post-holder will have access to the cutting-edge laboratory automation facilities at EI's DNA Foundry. The post-holder will also interact with stakeholders at LeafSystems® and have the opportunity to work and collaborate with scientists in the OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre.


The successful applicant will have a PhD in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biological Chemistry, Plant Biology, Synthetic Biology, or a related subject. Experience in molecular cloning, genotyping and expression analyses are all essential, and experience with LC- and GC-based mass spectrometry metabolomics are desirable.

Salary on appointment will be within the range £30,750 to £37,750 per annum depending on qualifications and experience. This post is for a contract of 3 years.


The EI is a vibrant, contemporary research institute, and host the UK National Capability for Genomics, a DNA-Foundry for Synthetic Biology and one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. EI has research programs that aim to improve food security, advance industrial biotechnology and to improve human health and wellbeing. The JIC is a world-leading, international centre of excellence in plant science and microbiology, involved in cutting-edge, high quality fundamental, strategic and applied research. Both institutes and LeafSystems® are co-located on the Norwich Research Park (NRP) which has an excellent reputation for research in plant and microbial sciences, interdisciplinary environmental science and food, diet and health.

The EI offer competitive salaries, an excellent defined-contribution pension scheme, life assurance, tailored learning and development and onsite sports facilities that are available to all staff and their guests.


For further information and details of how to apply, please visit their web site or contact Human Resources, Norwich BioScience Institutes Partnership, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK, 01603 450462 quoting reference 1003189.


As a Disability Confident employer, the EI guarantee to offer an interview to all disabled applicants who meet the essential criteria for this vacancy.

The closing date for applications will be 3rd April 2017.

(Closes 31st Mar) Deep Science Ventures - 6 Month funded venture building program

Where Scientists and Engineers come together to build ventures that matter.

Deep Science Ventures is doing something you may have never heard of... We are offering final year PhD students, graduates, and post-doctoral researchers to showcase their deep domain expertise and join building the next generation high tech solutions in biotech, healthcare, agriculture, sustainable energy - you name it.

We look for scientific and engineering expertise in combination with enormous passion to solve major challenges to join a 6-month fully funded venture building program. 

Brainstorm and explore technical and commercial viability of initial ideas with industry experts and potential co-founders, while earning basic wage.

If after 3 months you have found the right co-founder(s) and identified an exciting and viable project we invest £30,000 in to a new company and continue to support your growth over the next year. 

If you don't find the right idea you may re-do the programme, join other teams, join our industry partners or move back in to academia with far greater insight.  


Because you want to do what you love, own it and have a real chance at making
an impact. There are far too many grand problems waiting for sustainable

For Whom

Scientists, engineers, medics with deep domain expertise and obsession to
make an impact. You will also have interest in starting a company. No idea required.


A place where you'll find best possible ingredients to create a deep science

• Founders: 30 talented candidates with deep domain expertise
• Funding: 3-month stipend + £30k investment each for 5-10 teams
• Facilities: Wet labs + prototyping space
• Process: Ongoing support from experienced venture partners and
dedicated specialist mentors
• Ownership: You own your IP



Join full time as a Founder or one-day per week as an Executive Fellow. Find out more about
how it works at

Find out more about how it works here.

[Closes 3 April 2017] Postdoctoral Researcher - Plant Synthetic Biology

Opportunity for an outstanding post-doctoral scientist to work on a collaborative project between the Patron Group at the Earlham Institute (EI) and the O'Connor group at The John Innes Centre (JIC). The project aims to improve plant production chassis for heterologous bioproduction of proteins (including vaccines) and metabolites and to contribute to our understanding of how the rich endogenous metabolism of plants detoxifies foreign molecules. The post-holder will have access to facilities at the Earlham DNA Foundry, interact with stakeholders at LeafSystems® and have the opportunity to work and collaborate with scientists in the Cambridge-Norwich OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre.

For details see: or

John Innes Centre announces EMBO practical course: "Multilevel Modelling of Morphogenesis"

"Multilevel Modelling of Morphogenesis" Venue: John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK Course Duration: 16 – 28 July 2017

Main Course Objective:

Understanding the multi-level nature and feedbacks involved in biological development requires an integrated, systems biology approach. This practical course will provide students with the theoretical background and the hands-on tools that are needed to enter this rapidly growing area of science. The methods and techniques taught in this practical course are essential for unravelling the complexities that come from interactions between different levels of biological organisation and the non linearity of the biological processes.

Target Audience:

This practical course is aimed at experimental biologists with an interest to understand and explore how the complexity of biological systems can be dealt with within a mathematical or computational framework, *and* at computationally and mathematically oriented students interested in learning leading-edge computational techniques that can be applied to gain insights in developmental biology.

How to Apply:

Please register online at stating your motivation for applying and brief research interests.

Applications will be limited to 24 students and successful applicants will be selected from the described motivation and research interests. Accommodation and full board will be provided.

*Application Deadline:* April 07, 2017.


For more information, please click here.

SynBioBeta London 2017 conference, Imperial College London, UK.

SynBioBeta London 2017, Imperial College London, UK

Connect with the Global Synthetic Biology Community. For the 5th year in a row, SynBioBeta London 2017 will bring together thought leaders and entrepreneurs from multiple facets of the synthetic biology industry.

Our focus is to unite attendees through thought-provoking talks, panels and networking opportunities, allowing the science and business sides of the industry to make critical connections.

With talks from key decision makers and tech pioneers, SynBioBeta is a must for those wanting to keep up with the rapidly-evolving industry. Networking opportunities are rich for those aiming to grow their company, their client list, meet investors or launch their next product. Many partnerships, connections, and new ventures have been started at SynBioBeta. If you are an active part of the synthetic biology industry and have a passion for making biology easier to engineer, then this is a must attend event.

SynBioBeta have offered a discount code to for the event, which entitles partipants to 20% off the cost of attending the conference. 

The discount code is: CambridgeMeetLON17


For more information, and to register using the discount code above, please click here.

16/17 March: Programmable biology for diagnostics - impacting global health and development

09:00-16:00, Mar 16/17, 2017, The Hauser Forum, 3 Charles Babbage Rd, Cambridge CB3 0GT

These day-long workshops will introduce challenges and opportunities in the field of cell-free diagnostics, with talks from the OpenDiagnostics team, expert in the latest advances of this technology Keith Pardee (University of Toronto, Canada) and plant disease expert Dr Richard Echodu (Gulu University, Uganda). This will be followed by an interactive sandpit session, and lab practicals the following day.

Harnessing recent advances in synthetic biology, cell-free paper-based diagnostics offer a platform for low cost, easy-to-use, in-field testing systems for a wide range of possible specificities. Synthetic gene networks can be designed to generate quantifiable outputs, such as chromoproteins that lead to visual color changes, in the presence of specific input signals like heavy metal ions or viral RNA sequences. These DNA circuits can be freeze-dried onto paper, along with the cellular machinery used for gene transcription and translation. When rehydrated, a simple visible readout can be produced and little or no laboratory experience or infrastructure is required. Critically, the low cost of these strips (~0.1$/test) will enable access across low and middle income countries.


OpenDiagnostics is an interdisciplinary team of early career researchers with three aims: to prototype solutions to technical challenges in cell-free diagnostics, to investigate potential applications, and to connect scientific experts with stakeholders.


OpenDiagnostics Seminar

This morning workshop will introduce the challenges and opportunities uncovered by the team, with additional talks from the originator of the latest advances in the technology Keith Pardee (University of Toronto, Canada) and plant disease expert Dr Richard Echodu (Gulu University, Uganda).


OpenDiagnostics Sandpit

Get involved in tackling global health challenges using programmable biology! If you would be interested to help generate ideas and collaborate with OpenDiagnostics, you’re invited to join this interactive sandpit event. Interdisciplinary teams will tackle a range of technical challenges identified by OpenDiagnostics requiring expertise from across the natural sciences, engineering and computer science through to manufacturing, law and social sciences. Solutions may be put forward as funding proposals for the OpenPlant Fund call in July 2017, which offers £5k grants to interdisciplinary projects in synthetic biology.


Lab practicals (17th Mar)

Get hands on with designing logic circuits using DNA and programming cell extracts to produce colours or other reporters in response to a signal. Physicists, engineers, computer scientists and other non-biologists are particularly welcome to attend and explore new technologies that bring engineering thinking into biology. No prior experience required.

Tickets are free, however spaces are limited. To register, please click here.



16th March 2017 Seminar and Sandpit sessions

9.00-9.20 Registration

9.20-10.40 About OpenDiagnostics

  • Introduction to OpenDiagnostics

  • Insights from field trips to Kenya and South Africa

10.40-11.00 Refreshments

11.00-12.00 Expert talks

  • Richard Echodu on challenges and opportunities for crop disease diagnostics in Africa

  • Keith Pardee on cell-free synthetic diagnostics and portable, on-demand biomanufacturing

12.00-13.00 Lunch

13.00-14.45 Focus Groups

14.45-15.00 Refreshments

15.00-15.30 Presentation of OpenPlant Fund proposal ideas

15.30-16.00 Wrapping up and networking


17th March 2017 - Practicals

09:00-12:00 and 13:00-16:00, Department of Veterinary Science

There will be a day long practical session taking place at the University of Cambridge department of Veterinary Medicine on the 17th of March. Details for the venue to come. 


Additional events

In addition to this event, there will also be an event titled: 'Programmable cell extracts - a new biomanufacturing paradigm' taking place at 18:30-9:00 on the 16th March at the Old Divinity School, St Johns College. The talk and dialogue will be followed by a wine reception and delicious finger buffet. 

This event is bookable through e-sales on the university website (registration £5). Please click here for more information.


Tickets and Booking

Please note that if you wish to attend several of the available sessions, you can order tickets for multiple events through the registration option. However, if you wish to attend the sandpit session on the 16th March, you need to attend the seminar session first.


Tickets are free, however spaces are limited. To register, please click here.

More information about this event…

16 March: Programmable Cell Extracts - A New Biomanufacturing Paradigm

Mar 16, 2017, 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM, Old Divinity School, St Johns College.

Dr. Keith Pardee (University of Toronto) and Dr. Richard Kelwick (Imperial College) discuss how use of cell extracts could revolutionise the field of biomanufacturing. The talk and dialogue will be followed by a wine reception and delicious finger buffet.

Bioengineering to produce complex control circuits like diagnostic tests, or to modify metabolic pathways for production of everything from drug and vaccines to flavours and fragrances, has typically taken place in cells that are then grown in large, industrial bioreactors. New methods, using cell extracts that can be programmed quickly and flexibly using DNA, promise a paradigm shift in biomanufacturing and paves the way to novel modes of computational biodesign, rapid prototyping and bioproduction. The opportunity to freeze-dry and ship these biofactories opens up many exciting possibilities for small scale distributed manufacturing, for example just-in-time vaccine production, and has profound implications for emerging bioeconomies.

The Synthetic Biology SRI welcomes two researchers to discuss this new area of synthetic biology and its possible futures.

Dr. Keith Pardee (University of Toronto) works at the interface of synthetic biology and human health. His research focuses on the potential of moving synthetic biology outside of the cell and dry shipment of programmable biofactories to enable diagnostics and just in time production of vaccines and biologics.

Dr. Richard Kelwick (Imperial College) researches cell-free systems and biopolymer production, including establishing cell-free methods and toolkits for new bacterial strains, most recently Bacillus subtilis. He also works on bioreporters and biosensors using synthetic gene circuits.

The talk and dialogue will be followed by a wine reception and delicious finger buffet.

For more information, and to register for the seminar (£5), please book here.


This event is organised by the Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative as part of our Lent Term 2017 SynBio Forum. For more events please visit


Additional event

This event is being run in conjunction with a free day seminar and workshop session taking place on 16th March 2017, entitled: ‘Programmable biology for diagnostics impacting global health and development’, details of which can be found here.

More information about this event…