Cambridge website for Synthetic Biology resources

Compiled by Jim Haseloff at the University of Cambridge. SpannerPlantLogo140This site contains details of recent papers and activity in Synthetic Biology, with particular emphasis on: (i) development of standards in biology and DNA parts, (ii) microbial and (iii) plant systems, (iv) research and teaching in the field at the University of Cambridge, (v) hardware for scientific computing and instrumentation, (vi) tools for scientific productivity and collected miscellany.

Similar to the Cambridge-based Raspberry Pi and OpenLabTools initiatives, we promote the use of low cost and open source tools - in our case for use in biological engineering.

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European Association of Students & Postdocs in Synthetic Biology (EUSynBioS)

EUSynBioSprelimLogo240The European Association of Students & Postdocs in Synthetic Biology (EUSynBioS) invites you to join its pre-launch community. The EUSynBioS initiative seeks to shape and foster a network of young researchers active the nascent scientific discipline of synthetic biology within the European Union by means of providing an integrative central resource for interaction and professional development.

Key objectives of EUSynBioS include i) the implementation of a central web platform for sharing news and opportunities relevant to members of the community as well as for academic networking, ii) the arrangement and support of events for academic exchange and professional development, iii) liaison with representatives of industry, and iv) establishment of a primary contact for collaboration and exchange with related communities of synthetic biology students and postdocs abroad.

Registering as a member is free and can be completed within 30 seconds via the following link Students and postdocs who register as a EUSynBioS member will be able to:
o Access a large network of young researchers in synthetic biology for academic collaboration and exchange
o Share technical resources and teaching materials
o Stay informed about relevant events such as conferences, workshops, or social outings o Browse relevant jobs in academia and industry
o Use site visits and mentoring opportunities to interact with prospective employers
o Connect with members of related communities all over the world

By registering as a member prior to the official launch of EUSynBioS, you will not only make a statement of support which will have an impact on the resources available to the community in the future; you will also be given the chance to actively shape EUSynBioS right from the start, and have an edge when applying for a position on the Steering Committee. We are looking forward to your joining us ! Christian Boehm, University of Cambridge.


Congress, Obama Take Sudden Interest in Synthetic Biology

Congress explicitly took up the subject of synthetic biology for the first time Thursday during a hastily convened hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Wired crowd has been talking about how to engineer biological machines for years, but Craig Venter’s announcement last week that he’s created a synthetic cell has drawn the attention of the very highest levels of government.

The hearing came shortly after President Barack Obama ordered a six-month review of synthetic biology by a panel of scientific stars.

The House committee members seemed primarily interested in the potential of synthetic biology to create micro-organisms that could effectively produce hydrocarbons that could be used to power the nation’s transportation system.

“Synthetic biology also has the potential to reduce our dependence on oil and to address
climate change,” said Henry Waxman, D-California, the chair of the committee. “Research is underway to develop microbes that would produce oil, giving us a renewable fuel that could be used interchangeably with gasoline without creating more global warming pollution. Research could also lead to oil-eating microbes, an application that, as the Gulf spill unfortunately demonstrates, would be extremely useful.”

The committee heard testimony from an excellent panel of scientists composed of Venter himself, Berkeley’s Jay Keasling, Stanford’s Drew Endy, and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci.


Committee members did not seem overwhelmingly familiar with the state of the science, generally reading clunkily from prepared statements. The event did not have any of the sharp give-and-takes between representatives and panelists that they sometimes do.

In fact, the hearing was technically an oversight task, but it played out closer to a gee-whiz commercial for the new firms that are trying to commercialize the technology. Venter, Keasling and Endy all have ties to companies trying to make money from synthetic biological techniques.

Keasling made the smoothest transition from his scientific work, coming up with a way to produce the anti-malarial drug artemisinin in yeast, which could substantially reduce the cost of its distribution, to his sales pitch.

“Fortuitously, artemisinin is a hydrocarbon, a fundamental building block for fuel. We are
now re-engineering the artemisinin-producing microbes to produce drop-in biofuels,” he said. “That is, through advances in synthetic biology, we can engineer these same safe, reliable, industrial microorganisms to produce biofuels that will work within our existing transportation infrastructure.”

Only one witness, Gregory Kaebnick, a bioethicist at the Hastings Center, a nonprofit that studies the ethics of biotechnology, could be said to be an outside observer of the synthetic biology industry.

“I was the only one on the panel who didn’t have a vested stake in it one way or the other. I think that’s probably a mistake,” Kaebnick told “The president’s panel will take it up, and they’ll probably bring in more perspectives.”

Image: Venter’s blue synthetic cells

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Research news at Cambridge University

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Online resources, including bibliography, weblinks and posters, for work with the simple plant system, Marchantia polymorpha.

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OpenLabTools: open technology in Cambridge


The OpenLabTools Project is a new initiative for the development of low cost and open access scientific tools at the University of Cambridge. With support from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, student projects include data acquisition, sensing, actuating, processing and 3D manufacturing, see the website.

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