OpenPlant is a BBSRC-EPSRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre, part of the UK Synthetic Biology for Growth programme, and collaboration between the University of Cambridge, the John Innes Centre and the Earlham Institute. The Centre brings together cutting-edge foundational technologies to pioneer development of open tools and innovation in agri-tech research, industrial biotechnology and bioengineering services. By understanding and harnessing the full genetic potential of plants as platforms for production of food, biofuel, medicines, and advanced new materials, OpenPlant is developing predictive capacity that will provide designer solutions to address the major societal and environmental challenges of the 21st century. At the Forum we will discuss recent developments in the field, and have the opportunity to meet researchers from the OpenPlant community and further afield.

The OpenPlant Forum 2019 conference booklet contains the full programme and poster abstracts.

Keynote Speakers


Junbiao Dai

Professor, Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences


Susan Rosser

Professor of Synthetic Biology, University of Edinburgh

Director, Edinburgh Mammalian Synthetic Biology Research Centre

Co-director, Edinburgh Genome Foundry for synthetic DNA synthesis and assembly


Somenath Bakshi

Lecturer in Synthetic Biology, Dept. of Engineering, University of Cambridge


Daphne Ezer

Research Fellow, Alan Turing Institute for Data Science


Sara-Jane Dunn

Scientist, Microsoft Research Cambridge

Affiliate PI, Wellcome-MRC Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge


Leopold Parts

Group Leader, Cellular Genetics, Wellcome Sanger Institute


Wendy Harwood

Professor, Dept. of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre


Mario Arteaga-Vazquez

Professor, University of Veracruz, Mexico


Jason Chin

Head, Centre for Chemical & Synthetic Biology

Programme Leader, Division of Protein & Nucleic Acid Chemistry, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology


Martin Howard

Professor, Dept. of Computational and Systems Biology, John Innes Centre

OpenPlant Forum 2019 Programme

Monday 29 July


13:00 Lunch

14:00-15:30 Teams 1-15

15:30-16:00 Afternoon tea

16:00-17:00 Teams 16-27

17:00-18:00 Drinks reception and showcase set-up

18:00-19:00 Showcase & dinner buffet


  • An open-source dynamic light scattering device for nanoparticles sizing

  • LunaFlow: Bioluminescent plankton for 3D flow visualisations of pressure fields

  • Pressure controlled micro-manipulation of bioluminescent microorganisms

  • Stress priming for improved production of biotech-relevant compound in green alga

  • Mechanisms for direct electron transfer (DIET) between Geobacter and Methanothrix

  • Diabetes diagnosis and management using Arduino and mobile user interface

  • Developing an Open & Affordable 3D Bioprinter

  • Droplet-based microfluidics to mimic the compartmentation of metabolism in multicellular systems

  • e-CO-SENSE – Biophotovoltaic Powered Soil Sensors

  • An open toolkit for engineering microbial interactions

  • Establishing a joint UK-Kenya Phytoplasma research initiative

  • Build Your Own DNA Dave

  • Low Cost SLM Interface Board for Advanced Microscopy

  • SAFE - Safe Air For Everyone

  • Variable-time cameras with image recognition for inexpensive, large-scale monitoring of plant pollination events

  • Low Cost Oxygen Sensor for Bioreactors

  • MACRO IMAGER: a low-cost multi-purpose large area macro digital photography phenotyping station

  • A behavioural chamber to evaluate rodent forelimb grasping performance

  • Low cost Incubator to grow mycelium biotextile

  • Aeroponics for All

  • A neural sensor for early-stage cancer detection

  • In-situ 3D visualization using X-ray CT during mechanical testing of natural cellular materials

  • BrewerMicro – DIY microscope for counting yeast

  • IoHeat

  • Did the organellar transit peptide duplicate itself to make a disordered linker protein?

  • Identification of genes involved in chloroplast division by comparison of temporal transcriptomics of C. reinhardtii and A. thaliana

  • Engineering Low-cost Turbidostat Systems for Running Microbial Evolution Experiments

Tuesday 30 July (Day 1)

8:30 Registration & Coffee


Open Systems for Engineering Plants Prof Jim Haseloff (Dept. of Plant Sciences, Univ. of Cambridge)

Harnessing Plant Metabolic Diversity Prof Anne Osbourn (Dept. of Metabolic Biology, John Innes Centre)

Mammalian Synthetic Biology: the current state of play Prof Susan Rosser (School of Engineering, Univ. of Edinburgh)

10:30 Coffee Break


Towards monitoring, prediction, and control in mammalian cells Dr Leopold Parts (Cellular Genetics, Wellcome Sanger Institute)

Decode and Reprogram a genome Prof Junbiao Dai (Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Reprogramming the Genetic Code Prof Jason Chin (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology)

12:30 Lunch & Poster Session I


Automated Reasoning for Biological Networks Dr Sara-Jane Dunn (Microsoft Research)

Understanding time-dependent gene-environment interactions: Tools to design and analyse experiments Dr Daphne Ezer (Alan Turing Institute)

Re-engineering geometric size control in fission yeast Prof Martin Howard (Dept. of Computational and Systems Biology, John Innes Centre)

15:30 Afternoon Tea


Contextualisation of Colorifix Prof Jim Ajioka (Colorifix)

Tropic’s Inspiration, Work & Impact Dr Eyal Maori (Tropic Biosciences)

Sugars on the surface – diagnostics and vaccines Prof Rob Field (Iceni Diagnostics)

Persephone Bio: phytocosmetics from metabolically engineered tomato extracts Dr Eugenio Butelli (Persephone Bio)

A radically different approach to DNA synthesis using silicon chips Dr Tim Brears (Evonetix)

17:00 Finish

18:00 Drinks reception

19:00 Conference Dinner (registration required)

Wednesday 31 July (Day 2)

8:30 Registration & Coffee


UC2 – An Open-Source Optical Toolbox for Multi-Modal Imaging in the Incubator Benedict Diederich, René Richter (Heintzmann Group, Bio-Nanoimaging, Leibniz, IPTH, Jena, Germany)

Genome Editing in Patient-Relevant Model Systems Dr Stephanie Mack (Russell lab, Cancer Research UK)

Advances in Genome Editing of wheat and barley Prof Wendy Harwood (Dept. of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre)

Understanding and engineering biological networks Dr Somenath Bakshi (Dept. of Engineering, Univ. of Cambridge)

On the way to a plant made Polio vaccine – Success and challenges Dr Daniel Ponndorf (Lomonossoff Lab, Dept. of Biological Chemistry, John Innes Centre)

Sexy Plant 2.0: For a Sustainable Bioproduction of Insect Pheromones Dr Kalyani Kallam (Patron lab, Dept. of Engineering Biology, Earlham Institute)

10:50 Coffee Break


DICER-mediated Reprogramming of Cell Fate Specification in Marchantia polymorpha Prof Mario A. Arteaga-Vazquez (INBIOTECA, University of Veracruz)

Systematic tools for reprogramming a simple plant, Marchantia polymorpha Dr Susana Sauret-Gueto (Haseloff Lab, Dept. of Plant Sciences, Univ. of Cambridge)

Marchantia and the chloroplast Dr Eftychis Frangedakis (Haseloff Lab, Dept. of Plant Sciences, Univ. of Cambridge)

12:30 Lunch & Poster Session II


Systematic review of natural triterpene oxidation diversity provides focus to the search for new synthetic biology tools Dr Michael Stephenson (Osbourn Lab, Dept. of Metabolic Biology, John Innes Centre)

Improving Nicotiana benthamiana as a bioproduction system for proteins and small molecules Dr Quentin Dudley (Patron lab, Dept. of Engineering Biology, Earlham Institute)

Expanding the toolkit for plant cell wall polysaccharide engineering Louis Wilson (Dupree Lab, Dept. of Biochemistry, Univ. of Cambridge)

Responses to oomycete infection in Marchantia polymorpha David Hoey (Schornack Lab, Sainsbury Laboratory, Univ. of Cambridge)

Electronic control of gene expression in cyanobacteria Dr Stephen Rowden (Howe Lab, Dept of. Biochemistry, Univ. of Cambridge)

"Viruses in motion": a close look at virus maturation through cryo-electron microscopy Roger Castells Graells (Lomonossoff Lab, Dept. of Biological Chemistry, John Innes Centre)

15:30 Coffee and conference closure

16:00 SAB meeting (SAB members and Management Group only)

18:00 Dinner and drinks at OtherSyde (by invite only)

Venue and Contact

All events will take place at:

Buckingham House Conference Centre

Murray Edwards College

Huntingdon Rd, Cambridge CB3 0DF

United Kingdom

Tel. (+44)074 0070 1676

Email: synbio@hermes.cam.ac.uk


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