Open Innovation with Large Bioresources: a workshop report

OpenPlantand The Synthetic Biology SRI, Public Policy SRI and Faculty of Law co-organised a workshop held on 28 January 2016 on the openness of large bioresources in synthetic biology and genomics. The resulting report by Dr John Liddicoat and Dr Kathy Liddell has now been published on SSRN.

Research in synthetic biology and genomics depends on the use of collections of tissue and data, commonly known as bioresources. Substantial amounts of time and money are being spent on creating these bioresources and it is likely that significant scientific breakthroughs and development of end-products may be missed or delayed if the tissue and data in these resources are not shared. Accordingly, the ‘openness’ of these bioresources — in other words, the ability for other researchers to access, use, and share these resources (which is typically recorded in a bioresource’s IP and access policy) — is a key issue for the success of bioresource initiatives and the progress of synthetic biology and genomics.

There are, however, many different approaches to openness, and the development and dissemination of new knowledge are not necessarily advanced by distributing material at low cost or without any restrictions; time-limited rights of control (e.g. IP rights) may provide a useful incentive. It is a significant challenge to develop a fit-for-purpose openness policy that balances the advantages (and disadvantages) of different approaches to openness. The Workshop addressed this challenge by: reviewing openness policies adopted by large bioresources; eliciting ideas about access and intellectual property; debating the applicability of different openness policies; and identifying relevant areas for future research.

The report can be accessed here, and thanks and acknowledgments go to the Welcome ISSF and OpenPlant Fund. Both the Synthetic Biology SRI and OpenPlant were involved with co-organisation of funding along with Public Policy SRI and LML.

For more information please click here.

Image credit: Holly Gramazio via Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0




 via Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

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


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.



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?

ContentMine Workshop & Hackathon at TGAC: mining for synthetic biology


Find out more and register >>>

Supported by the OpenPlant Fund
Interested in using mining technologies for synthetic biology?

Content mining technologies hold much potential for maximising scientific discovery and the reuse of research through automated searching, indexing and analysing of scientific literature.

In this workshop, we aim to educate and engage technologists and biologists who are interested in using mining technologies for synthetic biology; to better enable access to research literature and data in plant synthetic biology.

The hackathon on Day Two aims to improve searching and indexing of plant synthetic biology texts through open source technology platforms developed by the Grassroots Genomics project at TGAC and the ContentMine platform from the University of Cambridge.

Target Audience

Best suited to biologists and bioinformaticians who have some experience of using command line tools or the enthusiasm to pick this up! As such, formal programming experience is not a requirement, but you may find it useful to attend the Software Carpentry Bootcamp held at TGAC prior to this event.

Course prerequisites: Basic prior knowledge of programming concepts.

Course details

The registration fee is £50.00 (plus booking fee of 2.13 per cent) – refundable on attendance (minus booking fee) which will be processed post event.

We are also able to reimburse up to two nights accommodation with a limit of £80.00 per night (receipts required).

Scientific Organisers:

Emily Angiolini, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), UK Rob Davey, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), UK Richard Smith-Unna, University of Cambridge, UK

Course Faculty:

Rob Davey, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), UK Richard Smith-Unna, University of Cambridge, UK

Further Details:

Venue: The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC), UK Application deadline: Friday 26 February 2016 Participation: First come, first served