Global Exchange Lecture Course

European Molecular Biology Organization


Introduction to synthetic biology

16 - 22 April 2012 | Buenos Aires | Argentina

About the Lecture Course


Registration deadline is extended to: 12 January 2012

Synthetic biology operates at the interface of systems biology, engineering, computer science, and classic molecular biology. Synthetic biologists challenge the (often bewildering) complexity of nature by building new biological systems according to their own specifications using clear-cut engineering principles and well-behaved off-the-shelf components.

The course aims to introduce students to the most important methods, strategies and challenges of Synthetic Biology. Even at this early stage, we can already define core methods and ideas that set the field apart from other biological disciplines. We are very pleased to have assembled an unique speaker list of true synthetic biology trend setters. We mix well established icons of the field with upcoming leaders, experimentalists with theoreticians, and systems-oriented philosophies with molecular engineering. They will present “bottom-up” approaches in which well-characterized and re-usable biological “parts” are used for the construction of sophisticated biological circuits and devices. “Top-down” attempts at the characterization and rewiring of large networks will also be showcased. These new approaches challenge computational methods and require a much closer interaction between theory and experiment. We expect a lively interaction both between speakers and between speakers and a young group of highly motivated students.

The format is: one week, six speakers, 30 Ph.D students or postdocs. Our goal is to contribute to the development of Synthetic Biology in Latin America and the Caribbean. Students working in the region or Latin American students working abroad will be given preference, but all applications are welcome. Selected students will be partially or totally reimbursed for their expenses after the course (given their full involvement in all programmed activities). We will charge a registration fee previous to the course to ensure student commitment.

Each speaker will give one plenary presentation (open to a large audience) and later direct a longer teaching session to introduce students to some important concept and/or technique of her or his work. All participating students are encouraged to present a poster and to give a short oral presentation about their work or project. We will free some afternoons for social activities and interactive break out sessions. The course covers four grand topic areas: top-down approaches, bottom-up engineering, theory, and applications.


From natural to synthetic complexity

Before engineering new circuits, we have to appreciate the organization and robustness of natural ones. Modern high throughput methods give us an increasingly complete picture of genome, transcriptome and proteome dynamics.

Teaching goals:

a) Application and analysis of modern high-throughput methods: deep sequencing and proteomics
b) Lessons from genome reading and writing


Engineering principles of bottom-up synthetic biology

The engineering of biological complexity from re-usable parts and devices is one of the most inspiring new ideas of synthetic biology. Parts collections, assembly methods and measurement standards are now beginning to narrow the gap between a once radical vision and experimental reality.

Teaching goals:

c) Abstraction levels for gene network design (parts, devices, systems)
d) Experimental methods from DNA assembly to circuit characterization


Life is computation

Theoretical models inspired by statistical physics or control theory shed light on principles governing biological networks and guide the design of synthetic information processing networks.

Teaching goals:
e) Introduction to control theory and statistical physics models
f) Optimization strategies for synthetic circuits


Interfaces between synthetic and natural networks

Synthetic, domain-based, protein fusions and modular RNA switches promise the precise interception and manipulation of intracellular signaling.

Teaching goals:
g) Control of immune response with synthetic protein circuits
h) Modulation of translation with synthetic RNA circuits


Challenges of synthetic biology

A round of discussions about the future of the field hopes to spark interest in the science, applications and social aspects of Synthetic Biology: Garage bio-hackers ignite fears of uncontrolled hazards and Open Source activism challenges intellectual property. Participants will identify core technical and social challenges, discuss solution strategies in small groups guided by a speaker, and then re-unite for panel discussions.



We look forward to welcoming you to Buenos Aires!

The Organisers