IET/SynbiCITE Joint Workshop and Conference on Engineering Biology

  • Posted on 7 June, 2016
SynbiCITE and the IET are planning a joint Engineering Biology workshop and conference for December 2016.
Prof Richard Kitney, Co-Director SynbiCITE

On April 5th, 2016, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and SynbiCITE, the UK's national industrial translation centre for synthetic biology, based at Imperial College London, organised a one-day seminar on the engineering of biology. The workshop was very successful, with well over 100 engineers, specialists and students in attendance.

This followed the announcement by the British Government in January 2013 that synthetic biology – the engineering of biology - was one of its “Eight Great Technologies”. More recently, the importance of the bio-economy has been recognised on both sides of the Atlantic - with the overall current bio-economy in the UK estimated to be around £150 billion, and increasing rapidly[1]. It is now clear that engineering biology will be a key driver in the growth of the bio-economy.

The workshop was designed to present, in one day, an overview of the field of synthetic biology, in terms of the engineering of biology. The workshop was primarily designed for industrialists, policy and decision makers who are familiar with synthetic biology as well as investors, engineers and scientists wanting to know more about this exciting new field. Although no prior knowledge was assumed, from the formal feedback following the meeting it was clear that the workshop was also of great interest to people already working in synthetic biology.

New frontiers

An important focus of the workshop was how synthetic biology is quickly evolving and accelerating towards new frontiers in the engineering of biology - leading to industrial translation of new processes and products. From the presentations, it was clear that the UK government’s ongoing investment and support has placed the UK in a leading position in the world of synthetic biology, second only to the US. The workshop showcased ground-breaking developments in engineering biology within the UK and abroad over the last decade - spurred by the application of engineering to bio-design and significant advances in the proficiency of DNA sequencing and synthesis.

Demand has created a new conference planned for December 2016

The April workshop will be followed in December 2016 (13th-15th) by a more comprehensive conference for the application of engineering to biology through synthetic biology and systematic design. Like the April workshop, the conference will be held at the IET headquarters in Savoy Place, London. In addition to the conference being jointly organised by the IET and SynbiCITE, it is being sponsored by the UK's Synthetic Biology Leadership Council (SBLC) together with the Research Councils and Innovate UK. The aim of the conference is to expand the material presented at the one-day workshop to include more in-depth material. This will include other fields likely to have significant impact on the engineering of biology including: robotics and automation; feedback and control; microfluidics and process engineering.

There will be a number of keynote presentations by leading national and international practitioners in BioDesign, modelling, industrial scale-up and standards. The keynote speakers include Professor Jay Keasling, Professor of Biochemical Engineering at the University of California Berkeley and Professor Chris Voigt, Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT. There will also be a keynote presentation on the importance of the Bioeconomy by Dr James Philp of the OECD.

[1] Biodesign for BioEconomy.