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Synthetic Biology: New Technologies and Sustainable Solutions

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Synthetic Biology is an emerging field that seeks to employ engineering principles to reprogram living systems. Biological systems are characterised by highly complex genetic and cellular networks that are locked together by dynamic, parallel and non-linear feedback interactions that give rise to properties of self-organisation, repair and reproduction. These evolved systems pose formidable challenges to rational engineering approaches. Yet, they are capable of assembling functional structures that are many orders of magnitude more complex than the most sophisticated man-made artifacts, and they do this in a renewable fashion, and cheaply.

Recent scientific advances allow us to use imaging techniques to monitor activities within living organisms, to precisely reconstruct cellular dynamics, and to analyse and resynthesise DNA systems at the scale of entire chromosomes. This new field of Synthetic Biology is based on the use of well characterised and reusable components and numerical models – for the design of biological circuits, in a way that has become routine in other fields of engineering.

It is providing a conceptual and practical framework for the systematic engineering of plant and microbial systems, and is contributing to a new wave of opportunities for improved sustainability and production of biomass, fuels, food, polymers and drugs. The talk will focus on the prospects for this potentially disruptive technology and impact on biology and biotechnology.

Everyone is welcome. Free for members, £2 on the door for non-members. Followed by refreshments (that means smoothies, cheese and grapes!).

This talk is part of the SciSoc – Cambridge University Scientific Society series.

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