EUSynBioS Symposium 2016: engineering biology for a better future

An event summary

The European Association of Synthetic Biology Students and Postdocs (EUSynBioS) is an initiative aiming to bring together the younger members of the synthetic biology community. This intercommunication can take various forms and happen across vast distances, however personal interaction is hard to replace. Hence, our first symposium took place in Imperial College, London, last week (April 9-10), with participants from eight countries and numerous institutions.

Dr. Tom Knight, Ginkgo bioworks

Dr. Tom Knight, Ginkgo bioworks

The Symposium kicked off with a keynote talk from Tom Knight, founder of Ginkgo Bioworks and one of the most prominent figures in synthetic biology. He narrated his early steps in the field, as well as his perspectives for the future, especially under the light of powerful computer simulations, cheap oligonucleotide synthesis, and high throughput analysis.

When cheap oligos are mentioned Twist Bioscience is one of the first brands that come to mind. The company's CEO and founder, Emily Leproust, presented her reasons for leaving academia for the industry and then starting a company. She compared the working conditions and the career perspectives in both environments, and ended her talk with motivational advice for succeeding in the corporate world.

Presentations by dr. Emily Leproust (Twist Bioscience) and prof. Luke Alphey (The Pirbright Institute)

Presentations by dr. Emily Leproust (Twist Bioscience) and prof. Luke Alphey (The Pirbright Institute)

Our last but not least industry speaker was Luke Alphey, Professor at Pirbright Institute and founder of Oxitec. His talk centered around the control of dengue fever-spreading mosquitoes in Brasil, the field trials, and the successful public engagement and involvement of the local population and authorities. The keynote talks concluded with Michele Garfinkel, working at the EMBO Science Policy Programme. Synthetic biology regulation is a topic that both interests and troubles researchers. Moreover, as Michele explained, efficient regulation and monitoring is a prerequisite for public acceptance of our emerging discipline.

But the theme of the Symposium was how you (the community members) engineer biology. Therefore, we featured six interesting talks and several poster presentations, with topics ranging from law and regulation to xenobiology and high-end computations. The presentations stimulated interesting questions, while the posters were swarming with people. All those created a nice atmosphere and the engagement of the participants was motivating.

Captions from the participants presentations and the poster and breakout sessions.

Captions from the participants presentations and the poster and breakout sessions.

The breakout sessions, where the participants had the chance to discuss synthetic biology topics with experts in the field, and the open discussion about gene drives (to be covered in more detail in a future post) proved to be the highlights of the day. Interesting - and sometimes conflicting - opinions were expressed, and discussions that started continued throughout the breaks and the small reception which terminated the first day. The second day was more relaxing, and included a visit to the London Biohackspace. 

Sometimes words are not enough, one has to employ their hands to get a message through..

Sometimes words are not enough, one has to employ their hands to get a message through..

Overall, I think our first EUSynBioS event was a success, and hopefully one of the many events that will follow throughout Europe. Me and the rest of the Steering Committee would like to kindly thank the keynote speakers and the leaders of the breakout sessions and all the people from Imperial College and SynBIC that worked hard for the event to take place. All photographs are courtesy of Ona Anilionyte.


Written by: Konstantinos Vavitsas

Edited by: Stefano Donati

Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in EUSynBioS Pulse articles belong solely to the writer(s). They do not reflect the opinion of the Community, the Advisory Board or the Steering Committee.