OpenPlant Forum 2018 Programme

Monday 23 July 2018

13:00 - 17:00   OpenPlant Fund Pitches

Interdisciplinary teams led by early career researchers from Cambridge and Norwich will pitch their OpenPlant Fund projects ideas to a panel of judges from academia, industry and NGOs. Projects should generate a tangible outcome of relevance to plant synthetic biology or cell-free synthetic biology or provide a training opportunity in synthetic biology. All project outcomes will be shared openly with the community. Find out more about previous projects at

13:00 - 14:00   LUNCH

14:00     Introduction

14:10     Extending the type IIS toolkit for subcellular localisation in Marchantia

14:20     Developing a frugal transcription factor relative affinity measurement pipeline (TRAMP)

14:30     Site-directed integration of transgenes into the nuclear genome of plants using CRISPR/Cpf1/ssDNA

14:40     Harnessing cytosine DNA hypomethylation to explore the potential for crop improvement in wheat

14:50     Receptor-like kinases at the initiation and maintenance of AM symbiosis

15:00     Visualising genetic circuits in space and time with paper-based cell-free translation

15:10     Optimising open enzyme purification using 3D-printing and automation

15:30     Coffee Break

16:15     Judges decisions, comments and closing Remarks

16:30     End

(16:30      Set up for Curriculum Hacks evening event)

17:00     Drinks reception


17:00 - 21:30   Curriculum Hacks

The field of Synthetic Biology is introducing breakthrough technologies for a wide range of practical challenges including diagnostics, environmental conservation, bioproduction, crop improvement and human health. As a result, biological engineering is promising to play a key role in the future well-being and economic development of sustainable societies in all parts of the world. To unlock this potential, we will need skilled and interdisciplinary workforces to take new technologies forward.

The Curriculum Hacks event will explore the development of practical, reusable models for interdisciplinary learning, and will showcase a range of activities developed for schools, universities, community labs and industry. Buffet and drinks included.

17:00     Drinks reception

18:00 Speakers session:

  • Jim Haseloff, University of Cambridge
  • Colette Matthewman, John Innes Centre
  • Fernan Federici, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
  • Carol Ibe, University of Cambridge and JR Biotek Foundation
  • Alexandra Jenkin, Gatsby Plant Science Education Programme

19:30 Showcase and Buffet Dinner:

The showcase will include a range of  practical examples of tools, resources and methods for teaching about synthetic biology and related topics.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

OpenPlant Forum, Day 1


08:30 - 09:00   Arrival and coffee

09:00 - 09:10    Welcome - Dale Sanders and Anne Osbourn (John Innes Centre)


09:10 - 10:30   Session 1: Refactoring Regulation

Keynote: The potential for using engineered RNA binding proteins to control organelle gene expression
Ian Small, University of Western Australia

Natural colours from engineered plant cell cultures
Ingo Appelhagen, John Innes Centre

Riboswitches for regulating gene expression in microalgae
Gonzalo Mendoza Ochoa, University of Cambridge

Lessons from plant-infecting viruses and bacteria promoters
Yaomin Cai, Earlham Institute

EI DNA Foundry: Unleashing the power of Automation for Plant and Microbial Science
Jose Carrasco-Lopez, Earlham Institute


10:30 - 11:00   Coffee


11:00 - 12:30   Session 2: Simple test platforms

Engineering polysaccharide structures in plants
Paul Dupree, University of Cambridge

Making plant-based expression more accessible
Eva Thuenemann, John Innes Centre

Open tools in Marchantia for plant bioengeneering
Susana Sauret-Gueto, University of Cambridge

Quantifying growth and gene expression patterns in gemmae of Marchantia polymorpha
Mihails Delmans, University of Cambridge

Domesticating the circadian clock in Marchantia polymorpha for synthetic biology approaches
Lukas Mueller, University of Cambridge

Pectin remodelling enzymes in early land plant development
Giulia Arsuffi, Sainbury Laboratory, Cambridge University


12:30 - 13:40   Lunch and poster session


13:40 - 15:30   Session 3: Pathway engineering

Keynote: Microbial biosynthesis of complex plant-derived natural products
Christina Smolke, Stanford University

Engineering triterpene production in Nicotiana benthamiana through transient expression
James Reed, John Innes Centre

Harnessing the Global Network of Botanic Gardens to Metabolic Engineering and Synthetic Biology
Samuel Brockington, University of Cambridge

Designing a Horizon Scanning Tool for Bioengineered Products
Dave Rejeski, Environmental Law Institute


15:30 - 16:00   Coffee


16:00 - 17:30   Session 4: Harnessing global biodiversity (Panel discussion)

  • Jenni Rant, The Science Art Writing Trust
  • Nicola Patron, Earlham Institute
  • Samuel Brockington, University of Cambridge
  • Dave Rejeski, Environmental Law Institute


17:30 - Drinks reception, exhibitions, and posters


19:30   Conference Dinner at The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Wednesday 25 July 2018

OpenPlant Forum, Day 2


08:30 - 09:00   Arrival and coffee


09:00 - 10:30   Session 5: Tools for metabolic engineering

Keynote: Synthetic biology tools for engineering metabolic pathways
Claudia Vickers, University of Queensland Australia

Systematic analysis of diverse genomes reveals parallel genomic neighborhoods leading to divergent metabolic pathways in Brassicaceae
Zhenhua Liu, John Innes Centre

Systematic review of natural triterpene oxidation diversity provides focus to the search for new synthetic biology tools
Michael Stephenson, John Innes Centre

Engineering Marchantia's chloroplast
Eftychios Frangedakis, University of Cambridge

Modulating properties of antibodies using genetically encoded unnatural amino acids
Amit Sachdeva, University of East Anglia


10:30 - 11:00   Coffee


11:00 - 12:30   Session 6: Plant-based bioproduction platforms

Keynote: Moss-made pharmaceuticals: From bench to bedside
Ralf Reski, University of Freiburg

Improving Nicotiana benthamiana as bioproduction system for proteins and small molecules
Quentin Dudley, Earlham Institute

From Catharanthus to catnip: finding enzymes to optimise the production of anti-cancer compounds
Benjamin Lichman, John Innes Centre

Tomato as a biofactory for health-promoting compounds
Eugenio Butelli, John Innes Centre


12:30 - 14:00   Lunch and poster session


14:00 - 15:20   Session 7: Sharing and techno-social platforms (Panel discussion)

Jim Haseloff, University of Cambridge

Addgene, A Unique Nonprofit Accelerating Science
Joanne Kamens, Addgene

Expanding options for material transfer via the OpenMTA
Linda Kahl, BioBricks Foundation

bioRxiv: preprint opportunities for synthetic biology
Richard Sever, bioRxiv at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press

15:20   Closing remarks

15:30   Coffee

Thursday 26 July 2018

New models for documentation, distribution and publication by bioengineers: Web Mashups!

A day-long workshop focussed on characterisation and documentation of DNA Parts. The day will include technical discussion about new models for bio-technical publication based on user-generated content, including web-based platforms and ways of working that have emerged from the electronics and software industries.

Please contact if you are interested in joining this workshop.

Venue and Contact


All events will take place at:

The John Innes Conference Centre

Norwich Research Park

Colney Lane, Norwich, NR4 7UH

United Kingdom

Tel. (+44)1603 450 000



Conference facilities


Coffee breaks and lunches are provided buffet-style in foyer. Any dietary requirements provided at registration will be passed on to the caterers.


Eduroam is available onsite. Details of the Conference Centre Wi-Fi will be available at registration.

Social Media

The OpenPlant Twitter account is @_OpenPlant. During the Forum please use the hashtag #OpenPlantForum.


Access to power sockets will be limited during sessions so we advise that you bring your electronic equipment fully charged where possible.


External delegates arriving by car and wishing to park on site MUST obtain a parking permit by emailing prior to arrival. All delegates are to park on the main car park which can be found on “Zone 2”.

A Blue Badge Scheme takes place on the mini roundabout next to JIC main Reception. Turn left/ right from Colney Lane towards the main buildings at the sign marked “Zone 2” in green.


This will take place in the Conference Centre Foyer on arrival. Please ensure you leave enough time to register before events start.

Talks and main schedule

All three days of talks and lunches will be taking place in the Conference Centre.

Posters, showcases and leaflets/literature

Posters may be displayed in the foyer, but please let us know as soon as possible if you plan to bring a poster as we will need to ensure an adequate number of poster boards are provided. Please note, the boards are portrait and take up to size A0. Posters and exhibits can be set up from midday on Monday 23 July and must be removed by Wednesday 25 July at 4pm.


Broadview Lodge

OpenPlant staff will be staying in Broadview Lodge on the University of East Anglia and within walking distance of the John Innes Conference Centre.

Conference participants can make bookings at Broadview Lodge for a discounted rate (see below). To book a room, call Broadview Lodge reception directly on (+44) 1603 591918, stating that you would like to make an individual reservation for the OpenPlant Forum and they have been offered the following rates:

Single occupancy room,  per night           £50.00 (Room only – breakfast at an additional £7.00 per day)

Dual occupancy, per night                           £60.00 (Room only – breakfast at an additional £14.00 per day)

Broadview Lodge Address

UEA Broadview Lodge, University of East Anglia

Norwich, NR4 7TJ

Image Credits

Banner image 1: OpenPlant midterm review 2018

Banner image 2: Green vaccine machine by George Lomonossoff and Eva Thuenemann (JIC). Shared under licence CC BY 4.0 in the Norwich Research Park Image Library

Banner image 3: The John Innes Conference Centre