Workgroup 11 “Synthetic Biology”
Barbara di Ventura
Synthetic biology is a growing field that aims to rationally engineer control over biological systems via top-down and bottom-up approaches. Utilizing molecular biology methods, synthetic biologists construct complex gene circuits for usage in vitro or in vivo. These provide the basis for “devices” with precisely programmed functionality using biological components as building blocks, and tools for controlled perturbations of cellular systems. Additionally, synthetic biology aims to engineer de novo biological systems or re-engineer natural ones to either answer biological questions or provide practical solutions to the grand challenges facing our modern society such as: renewable energy sources; sustainable and ecologically friendly production of goods; and less invasive therapies for targeting diseases. Another aspect of synthetic biology is the construction of bio-inspired systems made of non-biological parts, which in combination with theoretical approaches can provide minimal models to understand natural cellular systems. In the future this will hopefully provide synthetic cells for a wide range of applications. Synthetic biology is highly interdisciplinary, bringing together molecular and cell biology, theoretical physics, chemistry, mathematics, informatics, materials science and medicine.
As collaborations are key to success in any area of research, including synthetic biology, we aim to build a strong and interconnected network of scientists working in this emerging field within Germany. To this purpose, the Synthetic biology DGZ working group will connect to existing synthetic biology associations, such as the German Association for Synthetic Biology (GASB) and the DECHEMA synthetic biology working group. As synthetic biology is particularly subjected to governmental regulations (such as those for the release of genetically modified organisms), and considering the potential impact of synthetic biology endeavors on society, an active dialogue with political and ethical bodies is crucial. Our working group will therefore engage in dialogue and, wherever possible, come up with creative formats to explain synthetic biology clearly and honestly to the lay public.
We believe that synthetic biology can strongly support cell biology through the creation of tools to precisely perturb cells as well as the establishment of novel conceptual frameworks to understand how biological systems function. Join our working group to learn more about synthetic biology and get to know our vibrant community!