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Synthetic Biology Symposium


4 October 2018


Alice Berhin, PhD student, University of Lausanne
Rodrigo Siqueira Reis, Dr., University of Lausanne
Anne-Sophie Fiorucci, Dr., University of Lausanne


Farren Isaacs, Yale University, US
Tom Ellis, Imperial College London, UK
Luis Rubio, University of Madrid, ES
Karen Polizzi, Imperial College London, UK


This symposium will build upon our previous successful experience with the Plant Synthetic Biology Symposium (9 March 2017, UniL), which gathered 65 people, among which about 25 PhD students, mostly from the DBMV and CIG. Next year we want to include synthetic biology from fields other than plants (e.g., microbiology and mammalian), and to focus on PhD students, as this is a great occasion for them to learn about career development opportunities. The proposed event is a one-day symposium on synthetic biology with leading international researchers in the field. This symposium aims at covering a field which is lacking visibility at UNIL, especially within plant biology, and would thus provide both useful insights as well as outstanding opportunities for collaborations. In summary, the relevance of this symposium is two-fold: the audience will learn about a cutting-edge and fast-growing research field, and will expand their horizons for future jobs. A round table and communal lunch with the speakers will further promote interaction and deeper discussion with the PhD students and other participants. The participation in the round table will be required for the PhD students, and each one will need to prepare at least one pertinent question (e.g., related to a speaker's talk, their field of interest or synthetic biology in general) to the speakers. Synthetic biology is an interdisciplinary branch of biology and engineering, and is producing a paradigm shift in biotechnology. As a new field, its definition is still debated, but can be generally understood as the design and construction of biological modules, systems and machines, based on synthetic gene circuits. These concepts have been successfully applied to unicellular organisms (e.g., bacteria and yeast) in the creation of synthetic life (e.g., the Syn-3.0 with only 473 genes), recoding with unnatural nucleotides and amino acids, production of biosensors, among others. On the other hand, synthetic biology in multicellular organisms such as plants is still in its infancy. Plants must adapt continuously and generally control most aspects of their survival by integrating complex spatiotemporally regulated endogenous inputs with signals from the local environment. These complex features make the design of synthetic genetic parts challenging, as they should be orthogonal (i.e., independent of endogenous regulation) and rapidly prototyped to enable the rational and predictable design of synthetic circuits or functions. In summary, research in synthetic biology in multicellular organisms is visionary, inspirational and full of opportunities. By inviting scientists doing state-of-the-art synthetic biology, this symposium will therefore provide a great opportunity for the participants to learn about synthetic biology, to discuss with leading researchers in the field, and to assimilate the concepts into their own work.





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