Archive by category | Synthetic Biology

SB: Medicine (and its malcontents?)

A big difference between this meeting and the one two years ago is the stress on medicine, which has been taking up quite a lot of Sunday. Wendell Lim, of UCSF, chairing the session, started it off with a serious, provocative vision. The medical implications of synthetic chemistry have been in making small molecule therapies; the medical implications of synthetic biology will lie in making “living therapies”. Living therapies are creatures designed, with the help of synthetic genomes or parts of genomes, to do medicinal stuff. Examples from today: therapeutic bacteria that target tumours (bacteria seem attracted to tumours, which I didn’t know before, and I’d be interested in finding out if anyone knows why), viruses for delivering genes, engineered immune system cells.  Read more

SB: Also blogging the meeting…

…is Rob Carlson, a friend who I met at the first of these meetings. Rob, like Drew Endy, used to work at Roger Brent‘s Molecular Sciences Institute, just down the road from here, and he’s now at the University of Washington. He may well be the only person in this pretty eclectic audience whose interests roam from detecting single proteins in cells to building space elevators. More on Rob here.  Read more

SB: Fun to come

An interesting addition to the various agendas surrounding this conference is an open letter from a variety of NGOs concerned about the implications of the technology and the limitations of scientific self governance, which can be read here. I hope some of those involved will be able to present their position in person during the debates on these issues that will take place on the third day of the conference — I understand there are currently some invitations in the ether.  Read more

SB: BTUs per bushel?

A fascinating first presentation from Steve Chu, who runs Lawrence Berkeley Lab, one of the sponsors of this event, on the challenge of finding technologies for clean energy production and the possibilities that various synthetic-biology technologies offer for meeting that challenge. There was lots of talk of artificial photosynthesis, and some wonderfully far out ideas, such as redesigning plants so that their carbon-dioxide intakes and water outputs are separated, rather than being combined in the magnificently subtle mechanisms of the stomata.  Read more

SB: What’s afoot?

It’s always fun to come to a conference where something is afoot — where there’s not just a bunch of presentations, but a genuine agenda. The first synthetic biology conference, at MIT two years ago, was such a conference — an attempt to bring together a whole bunch of people working on a diverse bunch of technologies and scientific approaches that are made possible by cheap DNA synthesis, and to some extent to establish the pre-eminence among those approaches of the vision of synthetic biology then being championed at MIT. That vision is of a world where biological circuits can be designed from scratch, using  … Read more