UT Austin 2004 Synthetic Biology competition photo. Courtesy of Jeff Tabor and Randy Rettberg.

SPPI-NET / IAS Workshop

Synthetic Biology : A Better Future?

A public dialogue meeting

Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, Durham University

5pm Wednesday March 9th

Synthetic biology is a field that encompasses a variety of different approaches and methodologies taken from different disciplines including biology, chemistry, IT and engineering. Whilst many different definitions of synthetic biology exist what they all have in common is a vision of the design and construction of new biological functions and systems not found in nature. This new technology may provide solutions to some of the problems facing the planet including climate change, food security and infectious diseases. However there are considerable concerns arising for the development of such new techniques. This meeting will provide members of the public and other scientists an interactive opportunity to learn more about the research underpinning Synthetic Biology and potential applications for sustainable agriculture and energy production.  A question and answer session with expert panel members has been incorporated into the workshop to enable the public to ask questions and learn more about the challenges, risks and opportunities of using Synthetic Biology approaches for future industrial and agricultural applications.

The workshop is free to all participants. However, space in the Lindisfarne Centre is limited and pre-registration is required. Please contact – Dr Tom Jenkins to register your attendance.


5.15 pm Introduction to the Meeting – Dr Patrick Steel (Durham University)

5.20 – 6.45 pm A series of short talks from experts in the field providing a personalised view of synthetic biology and its future impact:

Dr Ray Elliott, Syngenta Ltd, “What Synthetic biology can do for agriculture”
Prof Mark Harvey, Centre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation, University of Essex, “Energy, food, materials and climate change: the 21st century challenge to biological science and technology”
Prof John Ward, Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, University College London, “What synthetic biology can offer for bioengineering”
Prof Robert Song, Department of Theology Durham University, “Synthetic Biology: Some ethical issues”

6.45-7.00 Refreshments

7.00-8.30 pm Open Discussion Between Panels and Audience Chaired by:

Prof Robert Edwards, Chief Scientific Officer for the Food Environment Research Agency
Prof Phil Macnaghten, Institute of Hazard Risk and Resilience, Durham University

8.30 Buffet – free for all registered participants

SPPI-NET is a BBSRC funded network which has the objective of promoting interdisciplinary collaborative ventures, involving both academics and industrialists, to explore the potential for producing synthetic plant products for industrial applications.  The IAS (Institute of Advanced Study) is Durham University’s ideas-based Institute which brings together some of the world’s finest researchers from every discipline to examine themes of major intellectual, scientific, political and practical significance.


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