RRI

Genome Editing and the Future of Farming (attendance sponsorship available)

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On the 6th September, leaders in the field of livestock genetics will gather at The Roslin Institute where they will discuss the future of farming and the implications of Genome Engineering. A series of talks and panel discussion sessions will examine the global scene and case studies from academia and industry, highlighting the opportunities and challenges in the field.

Who should attend?

Researchers in academia or industry and policy makers with interests in food security and the livestock sector, particularly in the genetic techniques to improve livestock and the regulatory issues surrounding these new technologies.

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Sponsorship for Early Career Researchers

The Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is supporting this event with the offer of attendance sponsorship for UK university-based early careers researchers who register for this meeting and are working currently on BBSRC-funded research. BBSRC will consider sponsoring up to 10 individuals within this category, which is defined as BBSRC-funded post-doctoral research staff with five years or less of total active research employment.

  • Sponsorship will be offered in the form of reimbursement of travel and subsistence costs after meeting attendance
  • Researchers who may be eligible for BBSRC sponsorship should register via the process defined for all meeting attendees. Once registered, please request a sponsorship application form from Emilie Brady (emilie.brady@ed.ac.uk); the deadline for submission of completed applications is 5pm Wednesday 6th July 2016.
  • Awardees will be selected by BBSRC Office, taking into account the need for scientific range and researcher / institutional diversity. Registrants for this meeting should therefore be prepared to meet their own attendance costs if unsuccessful. Sponsorship applicants will be informed of the outcome by Friday 22nd July 2016

Source: Genome Editing and the Future of Farming – The National Institutes of Bioscience

Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Research Fund: 2016 Call

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More info on Cambridge-Africa website >>>

The Cambridge-Africa ALBORADA Research Fund was established in 2012, with generous support from The ALBORADA Trust. The fund supports pairs of researchers (post-doctoral level and above) from the University of Cambridge (or an affiliated institution such as the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and NIAB) and sub-Saharan African institutions, across all disciplines, to initiate and/or strengthen research collaborations. This is achieved by providing funding ofbetween £1,000 and £20,000, for:

  • research costs (such as reagents, fieldwork and equipment)
  • research-related travel between Cambridge and Africa
  • conducting research training activities in Africa (e.g. setting up courses/workshops).

Please read carefully the Terms & Conditions, including eligibility criteria, before applying. 

How to apply

The online application form has been designed to allow both applicants (Cambridge- and Africa-based) to log in, update, save and eventually submit electronically. 

To access the form, the Cambridge based applicant mustRegister Here. Only applicants with@cam.ac.uk, @sanger.ac.uk and @niab.ac.uk email addresses can register.

The Cambridge-based applicant must then log in to the ALBORADA application form, where they will see the words "Invite a 2nd applicant to view/edit this submission". Click on this link in order to invite the Africa-based applicant to register and edit the forms.

If you are eligible to apply, but are unable to register on the page above, then please contact Sophia Mahroo on szm21@cam.ac.uk.

If you have already registered, please Log Into access the form.

The deadline to submit an application for collaborative research funding is Sunday 5th June 2016.

Gene Discovery for Synthetic Biology: Exploring the Novel Natural Product Biosynthetic Capacity of Eukaryotic Microalgae

OpenPlant PI Professor Rob Field at the John Innes Centre has published work of relevance to those working on algae and microalgae.

O’Neill, G. Saalbach, R.A. Field (2016). Gene Discovery for Synthetic Biology: Exploring the Novel Natural Product Biosynthetic Capacity of Eukaryotic Microalgae. Methods in Enzymology 576, p 99-120.

Abstract

Eukaryotic microalgae are an incredibly diverse group of organisms whose sole unifying feature is their ability to photosynthesize. They are known for producing a range of potent toxins, which can build up during harmful algal blooms causing damage to ecosystems and fisheries. Genome sequencing is lagging behind in these organisms because of their genetic complexity, but transcriptome sequencing is beginning to make up for this deficit. As more sequence data becomes available, it is apparent that eukaryotic microalgae possess a range of complex natural product biosynthesis capabilities. Some of the genes concerned are responsible for the biosynthesis of known toxins, but there are many more for which we do not know the products. Bioinformatic and analytical techniques have been developed for natural product discovery in bacteria and these approaches can be used to extract information about the products synthesized by algae. Recent analyses suggest that eukaryotic microalgae produce many complex natural products that remain to be discovered.


Image credit: microscopic-view-of-microalgae by Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn on Flick, licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0

UK Commons Select Committee calls for 'GM and gene editing' evidence check

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The UK Commons Science and Technology Select Committee invites views on the strength of the evidence in relation to GM and gene editing.

 Please read the Government statement before submitting a comment.

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  • GM and Gene Editing: Government statement ( PDF 90 KB)

Comments will be pre-moderated.

Science and Technology 'evidence check' web forum homepage

The Science and Technology Committee invites views on the Government-provided evidence-check papers posted on this forum, in particular on the strength of the evidence and how well the Government's approach reflects the evidence.

Taking forward the work of the Institute for Government, this exercise will help shape future Committee work, including identifying areas for scrutiny hearings or for launching inquiries. We would like submitters to address the following broad questions:

  • Diagnosis: Does the Government show that it knows about the issue, its causes, effects, and scale?
  • Actions/plans: Has the Government shown that any policy intervention is evidence-based, that it has assessed the strengths/weaknesses of the evidence base, and identified other policy options?
  • Implementation:  Has the Government shown that the implementation method for the policy has been based on evidence on what works?
  • Value for money: Are the costs and benefits understood and evidence-based?
  • Testing and evaluation: Are plans for testing and evaluation adequate?

EUSynBioS Symposium 2016: Engineering Biology for a Better Future

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EUSynBioS_Symposium

This weekend, the first EUSynBioS Symposium, themed Engineering Biology for a Better Future, will follow SynBioBeta at Imperial College London.

The Symposium kicks off with a Visionary keynote address from none other than synthetic biology pioneer Tom Knight (Ginkgo Bioworks). A former professor at MIT and one of the very first synthetic biology entrepreneurs, Tom will give an insight into the early days of synthetic biology and talk about what the future holds. Then, a session of scientific presentations exclusively by early career synbio researchers; providing graduate students and early career post-docs a platform to present their research to peers and senior scientists.

Post-lunch, the symposium will break into smaller breakout sessions on various topics from biodiversity to design and public engagement. Led by excellent fellow members, these sessions are a great opportunity to hear other people's views on important issues in synbio today. Two inspiring speakers - Luke Alphey (Oxitec) and Emily LeProust (Twist BioSciences) - will then talk about their career paths to setting up world changing synbio companies. A must for all budding synbio entrepreneurs! Michele Garfinkel (former Policy Analyst at the J.Craig Venter Institute, and currently at EMBO) will talk next, on the world of policy making and how we can make a difference in how synbio is legislated in the future.

Finally, the symposium will close with an Open Discussion on a topic chosen by you: Gene Drives! Gene Drives have gotten a lot of press in the last few months and we have none other than the scientist who coined the term, Austin Burt (Imperial College London), joined by Michele Garfinkel and Luke Alphey, giving an introduction to what this fascinating technology holds for the future. This session is a forum to express views and get answers from experts about gene drives: How do they work? Will they change the world for the better? Is it ethical to do so? ...and many more questions, we’re sure!

[spacer height="20px"] EUSynBioS Symposium 2016: Engineering Biology for a Better Future

Sat, Apr 9, 2016 - 8:00amSun, Apr 10, 2016 - 7:00pm

Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London, SW7 2AZ

Ethics, Openness, Outreach and the Media course – SAW session

Above:   Nicotiana benthamiana  by Aymeric Leveau (JIC), image  NRP-103 : licenced under  CC-BY 4.0.    Below:  Artwork created by a scientists, inspired by above image of  Nicotiana benthamiana

Above: Nicotiana benthamiana by Aymeric Leveau (JIC), image NRP-103: licenced under CC-BY 4.0.

Below: Artwork created by a scientists, inspired by above image of Nicotiana benthamiana

As part of a workshop for post docs on ethics, the media, openness and outreach the participants were treated to an after-dinner Science Art and Writing session at St Andrews Brewhouse in Norwich. The session began with a discussion about communicating with the public and then focused in on specialised communication, something scientists do very well! Writer Mike O’Driscoll then introduced the group to other styles of communication and encouraged them to write poetry to explore new ways of getting messages across. 

Artist Chris Hann then led an art activity on the theme of plants to encourage creative interpretation and sharing of science. This activity not only introduced new ways of approaching outreach but also gave the scientists time to reflect on the key messages and aims of their work and how they might express that and also sitting around the table exercising their artistic sides led to a vibrant level of creative exchange which was very refreshing.

 

 

Short poems from scientists

Short poems from scientists

Apply to CUTEC Sustainable Futures Challenge with your sustainable synthetic biology ideas

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In line with the theme of this year’s CUTEC’s Technology Ventures Conference (TVC), this new, interactive initiative will gather the best and brightest Cambridge students, academics, staff, and alumni to tackle problems relating to the question:

“How can we enable sustainable supply and production of food and water in a sustainable fashion?”

A resource is defined as a source or supply from which a benefit/need can be obtained in order to function effectively. The UN has estimated that in 15 years we will need 30% more water, 45% more energy, and 50% more food than today. The percent of arable land in the world is estimated to be 13.31% with only 4.71% sustaining permanent crops. However, by rethinking what counts as a “resource” people are finding clever ways to produce food in inhospitable environments, for example one experiment in the desert of Qatar takes advantage of abundant sunlight and seawater to turn out 75 kg of vegetables per square meter. How can we adapt to less than ideal environments to continue to live comfortably while supporting a planet of over 7 billion humans?

We will place scientists, engineers, business students, social scientists, and artists on teams to solve one of three challenges: (1) Compost, (2) Soil structure, and (3) Seed distribution. Solutions will need to take into account and will be judged on efficiency, sustainability, and economy.

Teams will workshop their ideas with industry experts at four workshops over the course of eight weeks and then present their solutions on stage at the TVC in front of investors, academics, students, and incubators.

CLICK TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE LAUNCH EVENT >>>

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER TO THE SFC >>>

The Challenges

Compost Challenge

Studies show that compost use in arable rotations can improve yields and resilience. Tons of organic, compostable material is thrown out in cities every day. How can we create an economical way to sort and get organic waste from cities to farms?

Soil Structure Challenge

The physical structure of soil affects crop development and yields.  Detailed soil structure tests can be performed in labs, but this is time consuming and costly. Can we make better in-the-field tool(s) to let allow farmers to check soil structure and resilience?

Seed Distribution Challenge

Cover-cropping is a great way to rehabilitate soil and can provide wide ranging benefits in farming systems. The most success often comes with mixing multiple species; however, these species have seeds of different sizes and shapes which makes it difficult to spread them evenly using current technology. Can we create a way to make it practical for farmers to sow seeds of different sizes?

EU Workshop on Access and Benefit Sharing under Nagoya Protocol

More info and registration here

Context

The EU is a Party to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation. The EU ABS Regulation, which transposes into the EU legal order the compliance pillar of the Protocol, became applicable as of 12 October 2014. The principal obligations of the Regulation – i.e. Article 4 on due diligence, Article 7 on monitoring user compliance and Article 9 on checks on user compliance – will become applicable as of 12 October 2015. In this context it is important that those who utilise genetic resources (i.e. conduct research and development on the genetic and/or biological composition of genetic resources, including through the application of biotechnology) are aware of the obligations arising from the Regulation, and that they can take the necessary measures to ensure their activities are compliant.

Workshop presentation

The workshop aims at providing the participants with knowledge about their obligations under the EU ABS Regulation and what they practically imply for their everyday work. In the first part of the workshop, the new legal framework will be explained, providing insight into the main provisions of the EU ABS Regulation. In the second part of the workshop, participants will have a chance to put the knowledge gained into practice through interactive case studies, based on real-life examples and realistic scenarios. The workshop should allow participants to better understand their obligations under the EU law, and to establish which steps they need to follow and which practical measures they should take when dealing with genetic resources originating from Parties to the Nagoya Protocol.

Target group

The workshop is targeted at senior academics and experienced researchers conducting research and development on genetic resources who have an interest in gaining an essential understanding of the new legal framework in the EU, in view of the ABS Regulation becoming fully operational later this year.

Scientists with an expertise in the ABS regulation are not targeted by this basic training workshop

EU Workshop on Access and Benefit Sharing under Nagoya Protocol

More info and registration here

Context

The EU is a Party to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation. The EU ABS Regulation, which transposes into the EU legal order the compliance pillar of the Protocol, became applicable as of 12 October 2014. The principal obligations of the Regulation – i.e. Article 4 on due diligence, Article 7 on monitoring user compliance and Article 9 on checks on user compliance – will become applicable as of 12 October 2015. In this context it is important that those who utilise genetic resources (i.e. conduct research and development on the genetic and/or biological composition of genetic resources, including through the application of biotechnology) are aware of the obligations arising from the Regulation, and that they can take the necessary measures to ensure their activities are compliant.

Workshop presentation

The workshop aims at providing the participants with knowledge about their obligations under the EU ABS Regulation and what they practically imply for their everyday work. In the first part of the workshop, the new legal framework will be explained, providing insight into the main provisions of the EU ABS Regulation. In the second part of the workshop, participants will have a chance to put the knowledge gained into practice through interactive case studies, based on real-life examples and realistic scenarios. The workshop should allow participants to better understand their obligations under the EU law, and to establish which steps they need to follow and which practical measures they should take when dealing with genetic resources originating from Parties to the Nagoya Protocol.

Target group

The workshop is targeted at senior academics and experienced researchers conducting research and development on genetic resources who have an interest in gaining an essential understanding of the new legal framework in the EU, in view of the ABS Regulation becoming fully operational later this year.

Scientists with an expertise in the ABS regulation are not targeted by this basic training workshop

The first GM oilseed crop to produce omega-3 fish oils in the field

See more at BBSRC website

In a landmark paper published today in the journal Metabolic Engineering Communications, scientists at Rothamsted Research have announced the first year results of the field-scale trial of Camelina oilseed plants genetically engineered to make omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.

Omega-3 fish oils specifically long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 LC-PUFA) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are acknowledged by the medical community to be beneficial components of the human diet. The primary dietary sources of EPA & DHA are marine fish, either wild or farmed (aquaculture). Although some types of omega-3 fats are available from other sources in the human diet (such as flax seeds), the nutritionally-beneficial omega-3 LC- PUFA EPA & DHA are only available from marine sources. Fish, like humans, accumulate the omega-3 fish oils by feeding on other organisms in the marine food chain or, in the case of farmed fish, through fishmeal and fish oil in feed.

Farmed fish is a rapidly growing sector, and today over half of the fish consumed worldwide comes from aquaculture. As the production of fish through aquaculture increases so does the need to find alternative sources of omega-3 fish oils. Rothamsted's new data – which demonstrates an important proof of concept that a crop plant can be engineered to synthesise these beneficial fatty acids in seeds – provides hope for sustainable land-based sources of omega-3 fish oils, thereby releasing pressure from the oceans.

Dr Olga Sayanova, the senior Rothamsted Researcher who developed the GM Camelina plants, commented: “We are delighted with the results of our first year field trial. Finding a land-based source of feedstocks containing omega-3 fish oils has long been an urgent priority for truly sustainable aquaculture. Our results give hope that oilseed crops grown on land can contribute to improving the sustainability of the fish farming industry and the marine environment in the future."

Rothamsted scientists, strategically funded by BBSRC, have already shown that they can successfully engineer Camelina sativa plants to produce non-native EPA and DHA, by introducing a set of seven synthetic genes based on the DNA sequences found in photosynthetic marine organisms. Although previous experiments in glasshouses had given positive indications for the performance of this trait, this trial demonstrated the stability of the trait and the ability of the GM Camelina plants to synthesise useful quantities of fish oils without any negative effects on yield. Monitoring of the plants grown in the field showed no obvious phenotypic differences in the growth, flowering or seed-set of the GM Camelina plants when compared to the non-GM control plants.

Professor Johnathan Napier, leading the GM Camelina programme at Rothamsted Research, said: “The omega-3 fish oil trait that we have developed is probably the most complex example of plant genetic engineering to be tested in the field. This is a globally-significant proof of concept and a landmark moment in the effort to develop truly sustainable sources of feed for fish farms.”

The field trial conducted at Rothamsted Research’s experimental farm continues this year. In the field this year two GM Camelina lines are sown as well as the non-GM controls. One line is the same as the one described in the current publication making EPA and DHA. The second one is a GM Camelina line that makes only EPA. Analyses and comparisons will be conducted between the two lines.

The field trial and the associated laboratory analyses are funded by the government-supported Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The scientific paper published today is available in open-source format from the journal Metabolic Engineering Communications.

Global Food Security Cambridge Symposium — 9 July 2015

Bookings are now open for the one-day symposium taking place at the Sainsbury Laboratory on Wednesday 8th July 2015, 9.30–4.30. The aim of the day is to learn about and be inspired by food security research taking place across the University, and explore ways in which collaboration across disciplines can bring greater impact. Speakers from all Schools in the University will be speaking on topics ranging from zoonoses to forests and food security, resource limitations on the Ugandan food system to food supply chain risks and sustainability.

The event is aimed principally at University of Cambridge researchers, and a Raven account is required to access booking details. Please if this does not apply to you but you are still interested in attending.

Log in

Programme draft [PDF]

Global Food Security Cambridge Symposium — Cambridge University Strategic Initiative in Global Food Security.

EUSynBioS: growing networks in Synthetic Biology

The European Association of Students and Postdocs in Synthetic Biology (EUSynBioS) founded and chaired by Department of Plant Sciences Graduate Student Christian R. Boehm continues to attract international attention.

Half a year after its establishment, the student-led initiative embraces a membership base of several hundred students and postdoctoral researchers based in 15 European countries, is supported by an Advisory Board composed of 20 accomplished principal investigators (including Dr Jim Haseloff and Dr Nicola Patron from Cambridge), and works closely with major partner organizations across the globe towards its overall goal: shaping and fostering a community of young researchers in synthetic biology by means of providing an integrative central resource for interaction and professional development.

Co-sponsored by the Cambridge-based OpenPlant initiative, the EUSynBioS Steering Committee recently participated in the SynBioBeta London 2015 conference, where the Association was introduced to an international high-profile audience and hosted a social event in the evening. An OpenDiscussion satellite workshop chaired by Christian on the second day was well-attended by students, principal investigators, and representatives from the UK research councils BBSRC, EPSRC, and the Dstl alike. He comments on the session: “We are hopeful that bringing students, principal investigators, and representatives from funding bodies into the same room like this will lead to new opportunities for the next generation of young researchers to be better involved in shaping the future of their discipline.” To foster collaboration and exchange among students and postdoctoral researchers in the field, Christian and colleagues are working towards an international symposium for the young synthetic biology community to be hosted in Europe in the near future.

Students and postdoctoral researchers active in synthetic biology can become Members of EUSynBioS by completing a short online form at http://www.eusynbios.org.

 

Refreshed Version of the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap: workshop on 16 June

The Synthetic Biology SIG team and The Knowledge Transfer Network are organizing a consultation workshop in Birmingham on June 16th to refresh the UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap, which is nearly three years old. The work is being led by Lionel Clarke, Co-chair of the UK Synthetic Biology Leadership Council. The outputs of the workshop will be presented to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills later this autumn.

Read more on the SynBioBeta blog