Joint OpenPlant Fund/ Biomaker call opens Monday 8 April and closes Monday 13 May

The next call for OpenPlant Fund applications is announced!

This year’s OpenPlant Fund call is joined with the Cambridge-Norwich Biomaker Challenge. More information on this joint call can be found at:

A summary of the important dates can be found below:

Call Opens: Monday 8 April

Mixer event in Cambridge: Thursday 25 April (Transport Norwich - Cambridge can be provided)

Call closes: Monday 13 May

Challenge Begins: Friday 24 May

Progress reports and presentations: Monday 29 July (OpenPlant Forum Event)

Challenge Closes/Open Technology Workshop: Saturday 2 November


Cambridge Science Festival

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For this year's Cambridge Science Festival, Alex Ting (Cambridge OpenPlant coordinator) teamed up with Biomakespace, SciArt in Cambridge, and independent events producer Sophie Weeks to host The Art & Science Soirée. The event brought together scientists, engineers, artists and designers engaged in DIY science for an exciting evening of speed meets, snap-talks, hands-on demos, and unexpected encounters. 

The event opened with slam poetry by Peter Bickerton (Science Communicator, Earlham Institute) followed by a talk by Jim Ajioka (Co-founder, Colorifix) and Giulia Tomasello (Interaction Designer specialising in women's healthcare.) Inside the house, Biomaker Challenge teams exhibited their low-cost, open-source projects. The aim of the event was to provide inspiration for open science projects (talks and demos), showcase the tools available to pursue such projects (Biomaker Challenge), and highlight a community-access space for biology and prototyping (Biomakespace). We hope that the event will inspire and provide an avenue for artists, designers, and other non-scientists to get involved in open science. 

Photos of the event can be found here:

New OpenPlant Programme Manager at the John Innes Centre in Norwich

Hi all,

Dieuwertje van der Does, OpenPlant Programme Manager

Dieuwertje van der Does, OpenPlant Programme Manager

My name is Dieuwertje van der Does and since February this year I am replacing Colette Matthewman as OpenPlant Programme Manager at the John Innes Centre in Norwich.

Previously, I obtained my PhD in the Netherlands, and worked as postdoctoral fellow at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich to study the plant immune system. Before joining OpenPlant I spent two years at the BecA-ILRI Hub in Nairobi, Kenya, where I was Programme Lead for the 2Blades Foundation to aid the implementation of biotechnological solutions to crop diseases in East Africa. I am very excited to be able to contribute to the OpenPlant mission and accelerate the adoption of synthetic biology innovations in the real world. I am looking forward to our work together!

The Biomaker Challenge Winners and ways to get involved

The 2018 Summer Biomaker Challenge was wrapped up in October with a showcase event, but it not all over. Biomaker activities are still going strong! Below is a summary of activities as well as a write up of the Biomaker Fayre and the winning teams….

Biomaker Activities

Winter Software Challenge (apply by 16 December 2018): Interested in programming? Low-cost hardware for science? Learning new skills with a team? We provide the hardware, you develop software nodes for integrating hardware with new graphical programming interface, XOD. More information at - a quick, rolling application process so you can receive your kit and start playing ASAP!

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Norwich Biomakers - An interdisciplinary network exploring the cross-over of biology with design, technology, engineering, electronics, software, art and much more. A place to learn about the latest technologies, share ideas and skills and shape projects. We meet up on a monthly basis.

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Cambridge Synthetic Biology meetups - A clearing house for a wide variety of regular open meetings like Cafe Synthetique, Science Makers and the SRI Forums - with a particular focus on building tools and interdisciplinary research.

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Cambridge Biomakespace - Scientists, engineers, students and entrepreneurs are developing the new Cambridge Biomakespace - an innovation space for building with biology in the historic MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology building.

The Biomaker Fayre

On Saturday 29 October, over 100 attendees came together in the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering to showcase and celebrate open-source technologies in research and education. The day consisted of a morning of talks followed by the Biomaker Fayre, where this year's ten Biomaker Challenge teams exhibited their projects alongside industry leaders and independent makers.

We started the day with some inspiring talks: Paolo Bombelli & Alasdair Davies on open tools for animal conservation and the "Powered by Plants" project, Grey Christoforo on hacking 3D printers to create better solar cells, Helene Steiner on OpenCell and teaching the next generation of designers to work with scientists, Richard Hayler on citizen science and education with Raspberry Pi and Julian Stirling on open instrumentation for Africa.

After a coffee break and lunch, we headed upstairs for the Biomaker Fayre. There was a festive feel to the space- gold balloons marked each exhibit, 3D-printed trophies were on display to be given out at the end of day, and attendees filled the space, excited to get involved and try out some hands-on demos.


Exhibits covered everything from a cartesian coordinate robot for dispensing fruit fly food to a wearable biosensor for monitoring vaginal discharge and a temperature-controlled container for sample transportation. Among the exhibitors were the ten Biomaker Challenge teams. In June, each team were given a £1000 grant and four months to turn their ideas for open source and DIY research tools into a reality.

The Biomaker Challenge judges were very impressed by each one of the projects and ended up deliberating for over an hour. In the end, the 3D-printed trophies (low-cost and DIY of course) were presented to the following teams:

Best Technology

Dual-View Imaging in a Custom-Built Light Sheet Microscope

Stephanie Hohn, Hannah Sleath, Rashid Khashiev, Francesco Boselli, Karen Lee


"The large variety of Biomaker projects was very inspiring. We had a lot of fun during the challenge and the feedback from people in different fields was really helpful. It was great to get in touch with programmers, engineers and designers. We received a great confidence boost for future more technical projects."

Stephanie Hohn (University of Cambridge)

Best Biology

Spectre, Low-cost whole-cell biosensors for environmental and medical surveillance.

Feng Geng, Boon Lim, Xiaoyu Chen, Jimmy Chen


"The Biomaker Challenge has provided us a great opportunity to extend our research into real-world application. As most of us come from a biological background, we faced a lot of difficulties on assembling the electronics and programming our Arduino kit. With three months of perseverance and constant guidance from our advisor Tony, we managed to come up with a customised, miniaturised spectrophotometer which can be used in conjunction with our whole-cell biosensor. We received an Arduino kit and sufficient funding to get us through the proof-of-concept stage of our project and from here, we are planning to further develop and optimise our device into a start-up company. It is amazing to think that it all starts with a small Biomaker Challenge Summer Project!"

Boon Lim, University of Oxford

Maker Spirit

Wearable biosensor for monitoring vaginal discharge

Tommaso Busolo, Giulia Tomasello, Michael Calabrese, James Che


"We all really enjoyed the multidisciplinary nature of the challenge, working with people from all sorts of backgrounds. We feel we now have a much clearer, hands-on insight into how the more diverse a collaboration is, the more relevant, impactful and exciting the results of ideas brainstorming can be!"

Michael Calabrese, University of Cambridge

Biomaker Challenge and Open Technology Workshop aimed to show the value of open, low-cost and DIY technologies as convening points for interactions between biologists and engineers. They are also important educational tools for those who are interested in developing technical skills and have great potential for improving the quality of science and increasing productivity in the lab for lower costs. With the proliferation of digital designs for 3D-printing and easily available consumer electronics like Arduino which has a huge community of users and lots of online help, designing your instrumentation around your experiment rather than vice versa has never been more possible.

Check out more photos from the day!

The descriptions of all prototypes are available at and anyone who would like to be involved in next year’s competition should write to to be kept up to date with developments.

Biomaker Challenge 2018 was funded by OpenPlant, a BBSRC/EPSRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre Grant BB/L014130/1. The Biomaker Challenge and Open Technology Workshop were coordinated by University of Cambridge's Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative

[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

[Closes 27 Mar 2017] CSIRO Synthetic Biology Fellowships

The CSIRO Future Science Platform in Synthetic Biology has released a call for national and international applicants for CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Fellowships. See below and for more information:


Synthetic Biology Fellowships

Applications are now open for the CSIRO Synthetic Biology Future Science Fellowships, an initiative of CSIRO's new Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform (SynBio FSP).

The scheme aims to attract outstanding national and international early-career post-doctoral researchers (equivalent to Academic Levels A and B, or in exceptional circumstances, Level C) to expand Australian research capacity in synthetic biology. A key element of the SynBio FSP is establishment of a collaborative community of practice extending across CSIRO and Australia more broadly, and linking into international efforts in the field. The SynBio FSP is built on a philosophy of responsible development of synthetic biology technology, striving for ethical outcomes and working within the bounds of social acceptance.

Fellowships will be hosted at a Host Organisation (usually an Australian University, but other Australian research organisations may also be eligible) and will be a partnership between the Fellow, CSIRO, and the Host Organisation. Fellows will be employed by the Host Organisation but will maintain a strong linkage to CSIRO through a partnering CSIRO Mentor(s) and various joint activities designed to support development of a synthetic biology community of practice across Australia

How to apply?

Further information and application instructions for the Fellowships are available at:

Applications must be submitted by 5pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, 27th March 2017.

Enquiries can be directed to: