We have established a mini-funding scheme to support seed projects on a competitive basis, to provide small grants to promote a forum for innovation and scientific exchange in the UK. Workers from participating OpenPlant institutions are invited to complete a short application form and to present their pitches at an open forum. A team of judges awards funds directly. This has created a forum and storefront for ideas in plant synthetic biology.
The OpenPlant Fund supports institutional exchange, interdisciplinary working and outreach. One or more of these aspects are required for a successful application. Projects receive £4000 over six months, with an additional £1000 for outreach or follow-on work after reporting on their progress. Funds are managed through a cost centre managed by a faculty sponsor, to help manage integration of the project with existing research loads. All outputs of the projects are open and shared. Parallel funding was provided by the Synthetic Biology strategic research initiative at the University of Cambridge.
The Fund has proved to be a highly effective way of providing important support for independent small projects and promoting valuable new collaborations among young researchers, along with the development and documentation of open source biology, hardware and bioinstrumentation. In short period of time, we have seen some notable outcomes. Example projects are:
Novel bioluminescent reporters & Synthesis of novel optimised lux reporters for eukaryotic systems: Bernardo Pollak and Anton Kan, SynBio SRI.
The team sequenced the genomes of 19 marine bioluminescent bacterial species from around the world. The genes responsible for bioluminescence were into plasmids for characterisation in E. coli and tested for bright light output. Directed evolution experiments were then used to improve the luciferase enzyme and lux operon as a new reporter system. These have been now adapted for higher organisms.
In addition, the team collaborated with the designer Victoria Geany to create bioluminescent living dress installations. The work was featured in Wired magazine. (http://www.wired.co.uk/article/victoria-geaney-glowing-dress-bacteria)
Whiskeroscope: a rodent whisker inspired sensor for use in analysis of plant tissue structure: Jan Lyczakowski , Abhimanyu Singh & Christie Nel, OpenPlant.
The team developed a novel sensor to evaluate stiffness of plant stems. The device is inspired by rodent whiskers and relies on inputs, obtained using a thin steel whisker, to quantify stiffness. The instrument successfully discriminates between materials with varying mechanical properties such as differently aged stem samples from willow and Arabidopsis. (https://github.com/Cyberius/Whiskeroscope)
Strengthening synthetic biology capacity in Kenya through bioinformatics training & Setting up an open synthetic biology lab in Abuja, Nigeria: Richard Smith-Unna, Dr Vicky Schneider, Dr Jelena Aleksic, Richard Pilling, Dr Chinyere Okoro, Dr Ibukun Akinrinade, Dr Jelena Aleksic, OpenPlant.
OpenPlant provided support for Synthetic Biology teaching and outreach for TReND bioinformatics and laboratory workshops in Kenya and Nigeria.
Funded OpenPlant projects
- Channeling targeted DNA double strand breaks into alternative repair pathways
- Engineering Marchantia polymorpha chloroplasts for the production of high-value specialized terpenes
- Open Pi-Image: A low cost-open source plant growth imaging and analysis platform
- Open Labware for plant electrophysiology
- Documentation Tool for Open Plant Technologies
- Whiskeroscope: rodent whisker inspired sensor for use in analysis of plant tissue structure.
- The use of synthetic biology tools to define the roles of LysM receptor-like kinases in legumes and cereals
- Developing novel selection markers for plant transformation to advance live-imaging techniques
- Quick analytical system for plastid genome modifications
- Wireless, portable, low cost, open source hardware for monitoring plant electrophysiology
- Strengthening synthetic biology capacity in Kenya through bioinformatics training
- Setting up an open synthetic biology lab in Abuja, Nigeria
- The Big Algal open Experiment
- Facilitating synthetic biology literature mining and searching for the plant community
- Responsible innovation and open innovation with large bioresources: goals, challenges and proposals
- Development of new codon optimization tools and development of a synthetic gene expression system in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
- Hot Tomato: Complementation of the Capsaicin Biosynthetic Pathway to Engineer Spicy Tomatoes
- Implementation of a synthetic transcriptional AND gate in the chloroplast of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
- Advancing the ability to image single RNA molecules at the cellular level
- Establish a Procedure for Rapid Identification of Genetic Parts for Use in Algal Biotechnology
- A synthetic biology approach to investigating arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis in Marchantia paleacea
- Desktop plant experiment box
- Environmental sensor networks based on plant electrical signalling.
- Plant electro-mechanics
- Establishing 3D Printed Microfluidics for Molecular Biology Workflows
- Universal precise large area colony scanning stage with measurement and selection tool integration
- Development of an Open Source Autonomous Imaging Station for Distribution in High Schools, Universities, and Emerging DIY Scientific Communities.
- Co-lab OpenPlant - interdisciplinary workshops of science art and design
- ynthetic Biology for Schools: A multidisciplinary approach
- Plant-ProChip 2.0: High throughput transformation of plant protoplast
- Translating Nitrogen Use Efficiency from models to crops
- The Green Mother Machine Reloaded
- Development of a Low-Cost Micro-Environment Device for Root-Nutrient Interaction
- DNA-mediated fusion of spheroplasts with synthetic liposomes
- Ambient temperature preservation of cell-free TX-TL reagents for use in synthetic biology
- Developing teaching resources for rapid, open and combinatorial genetic circuit fabrication in cell-free systems.
- Accessible 3D Models of Molecules
- Light sheet microscopy of cell sheet folding in Volvox
- Developing Cell-Free Genetic Circuits and their Electronic Counterparts as Educational Tools for SynBio Students.
Funded SynBio SRI projects
- Engineering of self cloning brewer’s yeast for novel terpene profiles in beer.
- 3D printed microscope
- Interactive web based software for genetic circuit design
- Novel bioluminescent reporters
- DIY Biolab
- Flexible, low cost, live cell imaging platform
- Faster engineering of cyanobacteria
- Finding new recombinases
- The Green Mother Machine: A microfluidics device for cyanobacteria
- SynBio Student Society
- SynBioHub: Patent information system for synthetic biology
- Synthesis of novel optimised lux reporters for eukaryotic systems
- CamOptimus: Self-contained user-friendly multi-parameter optimisation platform for non-specialist experimental biologists
- Reliable IP-free system for inter-chassis transfer of the high molecular weight DNA
- A piezoelectric bio-platform to image and stimulate cellular interactions
- Interactive web-based software tool for biological circuit design (Extension plan)
- Development of a microfluidic device for high-throughput analysis of genetic circuits in plant protoplasts.
- Low cost solution for high throughput bacterial electrotransformation
- CELLUWIN: 3D printing for cellulose
- Organotypic cultures as tools for functional screening of drugs to promote oligodendrocyte differentiation and CNS myelination.