OpenPlant Forum 2017 Programme

Monday 24 July 2017

13:00 - 17:00     OpenPlant Fund Pitches

Interdisciplinary teams led by early career researchers from Cambridge and Norwich pitch their ideas for £5000 OpenPlant Fund projects to a panel of judges from academia, industry and NGOs. In this round, projects should generate a tangible outcome of relevance to synthetic biology or cell-free synthetic biology and all outcomes must be shared openly with the community.

17:00 - 18:30     Drinks Reception and Poster/Demo Session

An opportunity to peruse previous OpenPlant Fund projects and ongoing research with drinks and networking.

18:30 - 20:00     industry forum: Building a Sustainable global bioeconomy

Talks from a range of synthetic biology companies about their journeys to setting up impactful ventures and the opportunities and challenges they foresee in establishing a sustainable bioeconomy with emerging fast and frugal biotechnologies. Topics may include the role that synthetic biology and industry could play in furthering the sustainable development goals, additional challenges to achieving impact in emerging and resource-constrained markets and the role of open IP as a commercial strategy.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

08:30 - 09:00    ARRIVAL AND COFFEE

09:00 - 09:30 keynote talk: Post-transcriptional regulation in Marchantia

Mario Arteaga, Universidad Veracruzana

09:30 - 10:30    Advances in tools for algal synthetic biology

A synthetic biology approach to harness the regulatory potential of miRNAs in the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii
Francisco Navarro, Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

Using Synthetic Biology To Engineer Medicinal Algae
Payam Mehrshahi, Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

Turning sugar to gold: uncovering enzymatic tools in microalga for β-1,3-glucan synthesis
Sue Kuhaudomlarp, John Innes Centre

10:30 - 11:00    COFFEE

11:00 - 12:30    Constructing a shareable toolkit for rapid plant model systems

Open tools for liverwort analysis and engineering
Susana Sauret-Gueto, University of Cambridge

A new piece to an old puzzle: investigating plant-microbe interactions in early land plants
Philip Carella, University of Cambridge

Talk Title TBC
Orr Yarkoni, University of Cambridge


13:45 - 14:45    Metabolic engineering for novel chemicals and therapeutics

CRISPR/Cas9 Mediated Gene Silencing for L-DOPA production in Beetroot
Noam Chayut, John Innes Centre

Catnip: the molecular and evolutionary origin of nepetalactone biosynthesis
Benjamin Lichman, John Innes Centre

Utilising transient expression towards the preparative production of triterpenes: A tool for medicinal chemistry?
Michael Stephenson, John Innes Centre

14:45 - 15:15    Reflections from participants

15:15 - 15:30    Closing remarks 

Anne Osbourn, John Innes Centre

15:00 - 16:00    COFFEE and networking


Thursday 27 July 2017

Working group on curriculum development and teaching resources for fast and frugal biotechnology.

Draft topics for discussion:

  • Description of existing efforts in curriculum development, BioBuilder, NCBE, SAPS, SAW Trust.
  • Modular systems for documentation
  • Production of cell-free extract and distribution of freeze-dried materials
  • Low-cost instrumentation
  • Possible cell-free projects - exemplars
  • Integration into curricula
  • Mechanisms for sharing materials

Invitation only. If interested to join, please email

Tuesday 25 July 2017

08:30 - 09:00    Arrival and coffee

09:00 - 09:15    Welcome

Jim Haseloff, University of Cambridge

09:15 - 10:45   Keynote Talks: Cell-free expression systems for synthetic biology

Talk Title TBC
Jim Swartz, Stanford

Rapid, Low-cost Tools for Human Health: Using Cell-free Synthetic Biology for Diagnostics and the Portable Manufacture of Therapeutics
Keith Pardee, University of Toronto

Establishing microfluidic cell-free systems for the rapid characterization of genetic networks
Sebastian Maerkl, EPFL

10:45 - 11:15    Coffee

11:15 - 12:15   Programming cell-free systems and design for diagnostics

Prototyping of cell-free protein synthesis in non-model bacterial systems
Simon More, Imperial College

Designing Diagnostics
James King and Tempest van Schaik, Science Practice

Poster Lightning Talks

12:15 - 14:15    Lunch and poster session

14:15 - 15:30    Tools for fast and frugal bioengineering

Loop Assembly
Bernardo Pollak, University of Cambridge

Improving the Plant Genome Engineering Toolbox
Nicola Patron, Earlham Institute

Developing an open access expression system to liberate transient expression of proteins in plants
Hadrien Peyret, John Innes Centre

Poster Lightning Talks

15:30 - 16:00    Coffee

16:00 - 18:00   Fast, frugal and open biotechnology for development

Talk Title TBC
Fernan Federici, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Talk Title TBC
Maneshree Jugmohan-Naidu, South African National Department of Science and Technology (DST)

Cultivating innovative solutions to global challenges in the Cambridge ecosystem: challenges and opportunities
Lara Allen, Centre for Global Equality

Taking big ideas to a resource poor country - Zimbabwe
Fiona Robertson, University of Zimbabwe

A panel discussion will follow the talks

18:00 - 19:30    Drinks reception

19:30 - 21:00    Conference Dinner

21:00 - 22:00    Synthetic biology curricula of the future:
fostering creativity and interdisciplinarity

Jenni Rant, SAW Trust
Ariel Linder, CRI Paris
Colette Matthewman, John Innes Centre
Karen Ingram, Independent Artist
Biodesign Challenge Team, Royal College of Art

22:00 - 23:30    Bar