Events

The First Synthetic Biology Conference in Cyprus

AfteriGEM, the University of Nicosia, The Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics, the Cyprus School of Molecular Medicine and the European University of Cyprus joined together to make the first SynBio Conference in Cyprus reality on the 29th and 30th of March, 2019. The conference scope was dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education, and the development of an open community

by Thea Chrysostomou

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Synthetic biology as an emerging interdisciplinary field that focuses on the design and creation of new biological components, as well as the reprogramming of already existing biological systems to function as optimized entities, served as a catalyst and started the national and academic conversation on the possible benefits it can bring to the island. This conference helped us understand the benefits and implications of this encounter between technology and biology, and how SynBio can add value to all aspects of Cyprus and global society in medicine, technology, research, education, environment, economy, agriculture and even art.

Results are so far promising; new biological parts and systems such as tumor-seeking microbes for cancer treatment and photosynthetic systems for fuel production are only the beginning of a series of in-progress developments which have the potential to positively reshape everyday life. 

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Through panel discussions and talks of 25 speakers from around the world, this event gave the Cypriot scientific and business ecosystem the opportunity to push the boundaries of synthetic biology and through the starting line of this movement - the intersection between biology and technology - in the island as well.

After the introduction for the conference in the local TV by the former minister of health, Dr. Stavros Malas and Thea Chrysostomou (EU iGEM Ambassador), the first day of the conference started with Thea and Representatives of Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education addressing the audience, followed by panel discussions.

Dr. Tuck Seng Wong from the University of Sheffield in UK, Dr. Lital Alfonta from the Ben Gurion University in Israel, Dr. Vassily Hadjimanikatis from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, Dr. Konstantinos Vavitsas from the University of Queensland, Australia, and Dr. Kostas Mathiopoulos from the University of Thessaly gave us some insights on SynBio communities and iGEM teams regionally, their experiences, educational hubs and what could be some differentiating factors to bring constituents such as academia, research, industry, government involvement for the ecosystem of Cyprus to thrive on this field and be part of this movement.

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Meagan Lizarazo, the Vice President of the iGEM foundation gave a very interesting talk on the history of iGEM and SynBio, vision for the future, startups, success stories in a global level (eg. PvP Biologics, Bluepha).

Prof. Lital Alfonta talked more about her research on “Genetic Code expansion for improved electron transfer”, Prof. Philippos Patsalis about his company NIPD Genetics on “Non-invasive Genetic Tests for Reproductive Medicine and Oncology”, Dr. Yiannis Sarigiannis on “Synthetic Biology as a useful tool in antimicrobial drug discovery”, Dr. George M. Spyrou on “ Systems Bioinformatics and Network Rewiring towards Precision Medicine”,  Dr Margarita Zachariou on “Computational Modelling of Brain/Neural Plasticity”, Dr. Vasiliki Gkretsi on “Targeting metastasis: could Ras Suppressor-1 be the key?”Dr. Kyriaki Michailidou “Large Scale genomics association studies in breast cancer”, Dr. Tuck Seng Wong on “Biological carbon dioxide capture and utilization(bioCCU)”, DR. Vasilly Hatzimanikatis on “What do we need from nature’s chemical toolbox for Synthetic Metabolism?”, Dr. Kostas Mathiopoulos on “Enginnering insects for pest control” and Dr Konstantinos Vavitsas on “ Driving synthetic Biology on with sunlight”.

We also had some after iGEMers and current iGEM teams presenting their experience in iGEM, how it shaped their career, what effect it has on their lives being part of this ecostystem and their research projects. Yiannis Ntekas from the National Technical University of Athens from iGEM 2018 talked about “Toehold switch enabled viral detection via routine glucose monitoring technology”, Fran Quero from the Complutense Univeristy of Madrid, iGEM 2018 and 2019 talked about “ From DIYBio to iGEM. The Spanish example.” Alexis Casas and Antoine Levrier from Bettencourt iGEM team 2018 in Paris on “Cell- free expression platforms enable ne possibilitis at iGEM and beyond”. Chris Graham from the University of Nottingham, iGEM 2017 on “Synthetic Biology in UK, a biological key and how iGEM changes a young scientist’s perspective”. Athina Milona and Thodori Kontogiannis represented iGEM Thessaly 2019 on “ Spot the iGEM impact; a Greek aspect of a worldwide phenomenon”. Dimitrios Michailidis from the University of Sheffield talked about Life after University. My colleague Will Wright talked about afteriGEM and entrepreneurial opportunities in iGEM and Thomas Landrain on his startups: La Paillasse, PILI, and cJOGL.

It is my conviction that the projects presented during this conference have made all of us wealthier in knowledge, ideas, and inspiration.

It is my conviction that the projects presented during this conference have made all of us wealthier in knowledge, ideas, and inspiration.

iGEM Cyprus will participate in 2020 as a research team representing the island in Boston with all the major Unis in the country involved.

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Thea Chrysostomou is currently working for the iGEM Foundation as the European Ambassador. At the same time she is continuing her research on Machine Learning and Biophysics in Paris. She has graduated from the University of Sheffield as a Biomedical Scientist.

TransCon2019: Understanding and managing microbial biotransformation of environmental contaminants

by Anastasia P. Athanasakoglou

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With a stunning view on Lago Maggiore a diverse cohort of researchers working in the field of microbial biotransformation got together at TransCon2019, held at Congressi Stefano Franscini, Monte Verità, Switzerland between 28/4 – 3/5. The organizers Kathrin Fenner (Eawag, Switzerland), Jörg Drewes (Technical University Munich, Germany), and Paolo Demaria (Demaria Event Management, Zurich, Switzerland) prepared an exciting agenda, bringing together people with different backgrounds, all working on understanding and managing microbial communities that are used to detoxify chemical contaminants in natural resources and engineered environments.

Jörg Drewes (Technical University Munich, Germany) kicked off the meeting with a talk that highlighted past progress, current challenges and future directions in the field of microbial biotransformation. In the first session, participants had the opportunity to discuss about the experimental toolbox currently assisting the efforts of understanding microbial communities, environmental contaminants, and their interactions. A wide range of bioinformatics pipelines, analytical chemistry methods, and meta-omic approaches seem to be essential to comprehend such complex systems. Environmental and operational factors in wastewater treatment are also highly influencing the decontamination process, adding another level of complexity to the system. These factors, as well as the issues of bioavailability and bioaccessibility of trace contaminants, were presented and discussed in the following two sessions.

The next topic to be addressed was microbial biotransformation, a still challenging to address matter. Is it possible to link certain species and/or their enzymes to specific biodegradation pathways? A number of recent studies on this topic was presented and discussed, illustrating how microbial diversity influences elimination of contaminants, highlighting at the same time the limitations of establishing causal linkages between reactions and enzymes or species. Michael Zimmermann (Yale University, USA) demonstrated how the expression of specific genes from certain species in other microbial communities, those of the human gut, are affecting the metabolism of drugs, offering great insights into how this approach could be used to elucidate biotransformation in environmental microbial communities.

All previous sessions had nicely created the basis for the discussions that followed on the 4th day of TransCon2019. The improved understanding of biotransformation reactions offers new opportunities for applications. First, by predicting reactions and comparing biotransformation efficiency across different environments, it should be possible to improve the assessment of the fate of trace contaminants in the environment. Second, it would be feasible to design improved next-generation treatment processes.  The latterwas approachedin the final session of the meeting, both fromthe engineers’ point of view but also from a biological perspective. Victor de Lorenzo (CSIC, Spain) demonstrated how to use metabolic engineering to understand how environmental strains evolve pathways to degrade contaminants, information particularly desired for rational design of efficient whole-cell biocatalysts.

Finally,thecontribution of the synthetic biology toolbox in monitoring and tackling environmental pollution was presented by Catherine Fan (Oxford University). Catherine focused her talk on the technology of SimCells (simple simulated cells), a variation of minimal cells that are unable to replicate, thus offering a promising alternative synthetic biology chassis for environmental applications.

TransCon2019 illustrated in the best way how different fields can join forces to address multi-facet problems, such as this of environmental contaminant biotransformation. Chemists, biologists and engineers got together, exchanged ideas and created a strong basis for future research.




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Anastasia Athanasakoglou is a postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. She completed her PhD in biochemistry of marine natural products at the University of Copenhagen, where she also worked on Synthetic Biology approaches to establish production of secondary metabolites in heterologous hosts. Currently, she is working on investigating and characterizing metabolic pathways in complex microbial communities responsible for degradation of environmental pollutants. Find her on Twitter and Researchgate.

 

SynBioS - towards stronger international connections in synthetic biology

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Accompanying adolescence of the discipline of synthetic biology, the past five years have seen many local, national, and supranational synthetic biology groups founded around the globe. United in the aims of promoting synthetic biology research as well as professional and policy development, the associations can benefit substantially from forging and maintaining strong horizontal connections.

On October 23rd, representatives from six national and supranational synthetic biology associations - EUSynBioS (Europe), SynBio UK (United Kingdom), GASB (Germany), SynBio  Australasia (Oceania), SynBio Canada (Canada), and EBRC SPA (United States of America) came together at the 2018 EUSynBioS Symposium Toulouse to set the foundation for a new international collaborative effort, the SynBioS Consortium. The representatives introduced their history, activities, and future plans through short presentations and discussed various topics of mutual interest, such as funding, social media, and science policy.

Concluding the workshop, the representatives confirmed their interest in continuing discussions as part of the future SynBioS Consortium, which will include regular online meetings focused on exchanging advice, coordinating initiatives, and reviewing progress.

We are looking forward to advancing synthetic biology together and encourage other national synthetic biology associations to join our endeavour.

  • EUSynBioS, SynBio UK, GASB, SynBio Australasia, SynBio Canada, EBRC SP

From Asilomar to Toulouse – Bringing Researchers Together and Synthetic Biology to the Forefront

In frosty February 1975, molecular biologists gathered at Asilomar (California, USA) for a conference going down in history. Following the recombinant DNA revolution, the ethical usage of recombinant DNA in research was discussed. Many aspects of this gathering foreshadowed issues that the child of recombinant DNA technology, synthetic biology, is struggling with nowadays. Asilomar helped shape recombinant DNA technologies and bring them into the public eye by bringing together the researchers involved in this topic.

In sunny October 2018, about 100 synthetic biologists from all over the world gathered in Toulouse, from Master’s students all the way up to distinguished professors and leaders in the field of synthetic biology. In a meeting jointly organized by the European Association of Synthetic Biology Students and Post-docs (EUSynBioS) and the French Research Group on Synthetic and Systems Biology (BioSynSys) at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Toulouse (INSA Toulouse), scientists had the chance to engage in fascinating presentations and discussions with their peers. This joint meeting was a first for both organisations and has shown the potential of collaboration between local and international scientific organisations to foster connection, exchange of ideas, and collaborations.

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During four days, leaders of synthetic biology such as Prof. Dr. Sven Panke from ETH Zurich, Prof. Dr. Beatrix Suess from TU Darmstadt or Prof. Dr. Jérôme Bonnet from the University of Montpellier explained their latest advances in very diverse areas of synthetic biology to the audience. Additionally, many young researchers had the chance to present their research in oral presentations and posters. Led by the idea of a circular bioeconomy powered by synthetic biology, which was illustrated by a keynote presentation by Dr. Lorie Hamelin and an open discussion with leaders in the field. This meeting in Toulouse gave to young as well as to established researchers a potential way forward in our climate change-endangered world.

Another way forward was illustrated in workshops conducted during the conference. Dr. Konstantinos Vavitsas discussed the important longstanding issue of standards in synthetic biology with the participants, Nadine Bongaerts prepared them for conversations with the public through science communication and Dr. Pablo Ivan Nikel led a career development workshop to ensure the success of the young researchers present. Accompanied by delicious French food & wines, our participants thus had plenty of exciting science around them, which would have turned the Asilomar participants green with envy!

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Yet there is an additional parallel with conferences such as Asilomar: organization, representation and the determination to bring the topic into the public eye. Next to EUSynBioS, national associations for synthetic biology such as the German Association for Synthetic Biology (GASB), Synthetic Biology Canada (SynBio Canada), Synthetic Biology Australasia (SBA), Synthetic Biology UK (SynBio UK) and the US-based Engineering Biology Research Consortium Student and Postdoc Association (EBRC SPA) also presented their organizations and plans for the future. With the aim of constructing a worldwide SynBioS Consortium to help coordinate initiatives and strengthen the ties between countries and continents, the national associations exchanged information and engaged in fruitful discussion. Analogous to Asilomar, meetings such as this symposium in Toulouse helps to shape the development of synthetic biology, both within as well as without by modulating its interaction with the general public surrounding it. This is particularly important nowadays, in a world endangered by climate-change and in which scientists and synthetic biologists need to bring forward new solutions to solve humanities’ most pressing challenges.

After four days of intense engagement on every level, the participants travelled back to their respective countries, enriched in knowledge, connections, and experiences. If our participants have even a fraction of the satisfaction we have with the event then we can consider it as a major success. See you at the next synthetic biology symposium!

Posted by courtesy of the PLOS Synbio Community blog, where this was originally published.

Daniel Bojar    and    Adam Amara    are EUSynBioS steering committee members.    Alicia Calvo-Villamañán    is a member of the student committee at BioSynSys.

Daniel Bojar and Adam Amara are EUSynBioS steering committee members. Alicia Calvo-Villamañán is a member of the student committee at BioSynSys.

Genome Engineering and Synthetic Biology (3rd edition)

A VIB TOOLS & TECHNOLOGIES CONFERENCE

Genome Engineering and Synthetic Biology are revolutionizing Life Sciences. Driven by advances in the CRISPR-toolbox for rapid, cheap, multiplex modification of genomes and breakthroughs in DNA synthesis technologies, the pace of progress enabled by these tools in the last years has been breathtaking.

The 1st and 2nd Genome Engineering and Synthetic Biology: Tools and Technologies meeting (GESB) in September 2013 and January 2016 were a roaring success and we are pleased to announce the 3rd edition of GESB in picturesque Bruges in January, 2018. 

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The conference will look at emerging tools & approaches in the field of: 

  • CRISPR and Synthetic Biology Tools
  • Gene and Genome assembly
  • Targeted Genome Engineering and Design
  • Genetic Circuits and Regulation
  • CRISPR Screens

The symposium will bring together some of the most highly regarded Academics and Companies in the world with novel technologies in several sessions. In addition to a great scientific and technology program, the conference will provide ample opportunities to network during the breaks, poster sessions, the conference dinner and our ‘Meet the Expert’ session!

Website link: https://vibconferences.be/event/genome-engineering-and-synthetic-biology-3rd-edition

Poster information: Format: A0 (841 x 1189 mm / 33.1 x 46.8 in), portrait orientation

Deadlines:

  • Early Bird deadline: 14 December 2017
  • Abstract deadline: 30 November 2017
  • Final registration deadline: 11 January 2018

Speakers:

  1. Prashant Mali - University of California, US
  2. Michael Bassik - Stanford University, Department of Genetics, US
  3. Peter Cameron - Senior research scientist, Caribou Biosciences, US
  4. Emily LeProust - CEO, Twist Bioscience, US
  5. Tilmann Bürckstümmer - ‎Head Of Innovation, Horizon Discovery, US
  6. Paul Dabrowski - CEO, Synthego, US
  7. Benjamin P. Kleinstiver - Harvard Medical School, US
  8. Kevin Ness - CEO, Muse bio, US
  9. Philipp Holliger - MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK
  10. Linyi Gao - Zhang Lab - Broad Institute, US
  11. Helge Zieler - Founder/ President, Primordial Genetics, US
  12. Tom Ellis - Imperial College London, UK
  13. Paul Feldstein - CEO, Circularis, US
  14. Sunghwa Choe - School of Biological Sciences, Seoul National University, KR
  15. Tim Reddy - Duke University, US
  16. Daniel P. Dever - Stanford University, US
  17. Jason Moffat - University of Toronto, CA
  18. Tim Brears - CEO, Evonetix, UK
  19. Paul Diehl - COO, Cellecta Inc., US
  20. Akihiko Kondo - Kobe University, JP
  21. Mazhar Adli - University of Virginia, US
  22. Joseph Bondy-Denomy - UCSF, US
  23. Alan Davidson - University of Toronto, CA
  24. Theresa Tribble - Co-Founder, Business Development, Beacon Genomics, US
  25. Bing C. Wang - Co-Founder & CEO, Refuge, US
  26. Elaine Shapland - Head of Build, Ginkgo Bioworks, US
  27. Sven Panke - ETH Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, CH
  28. Yvonne Chen - Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, US
  29. Kedar Patel - Director, Zymergen, US
  30. Steven Riedmuller - Synthetic Genomics Inc, US
  31. Farren Isaacs - Yale University, US
  32. Roy Bar-Ziv - The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

 

Address:

Site Oud Sint-Jan
Zonnekemeers (parking)
8000 Brugge
Belgium

More info