Meeting report: Synthetic Biology Symposium Cold Spring Harbor Asia
Article first published online: 4 MAR 2013
Copyright © 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
Special Issue: Strategies in Tissue Engineering
Volume 8, Issue 3, pages 284–285, March 2013
How to Cite
(2013), Meeting report: Synthetic Biology Symposium Cold Spring Harbor Asia. Biotechnology Journal, 8: 284–285. doi: 10.1002/biot.201200392
- Issue published online: 4 MAR 2013
- Article first published online: 4 MAR 2013
The Synthetic Biology Symposium of Cold Spring Harbor Asia was held at the Suzhou Dushu Lake Conference Center, China, on Nov 26-30, 2012. The symposium was organized by Prof. George Guo-Qiang Chen (Tsinghua University, China), Prof. Sang Yup Lee (KAIST, Korea), Prof. Birger Lindberg Møller (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), and Prof. Hiroki Ueda (RIKEN Kobe Institute, Japan). The conference consisted of 54 oral presentations and a poster session with 46 poster presentations. Talks were selected from the submitted abstracts and were arranged into eight oral sessions according to their scientific content. Social events throughout the conference provided opportunities for the participants to mix and mingle.
Synthetic biology has been making rapid progress in the past few years. Novel ideas come up frequently to bring about cutting-edge solutions. In his opening remarks, Prof. George Chen welcomed all the participants to the conference, reviewed the past and recent developments in synthetic biology, and emphasized that many nations have listed synthetic biology as a primary area of scientific development.
Keynote lectures: three keynote speakers delivered half-an-hour talks during the conference. The first of these speakers, Prof. Birger Lindberg Møller presented a lecture on plant-produced defensive compounds with the title “Plant power: The ultimate way to go green”. Plants can produce bioactive defense compounds when attacked by insects or microbes. Several of these compounds are used in the treatment of human diseases including cancer. Plants use the “share-your-parts” principle of synthetic biology to promote the production of bioactive compounds that are difficult or impossible to synthetize using chemical methods. The second keynote speaker, Prof. Lars K. Nielsen (The University of Queensland, Australia) reviewed in his talk “Metabolic and regulatory models for synthetic biology design”, the status of rational in silico strain design, which can provide a cost effective way of constructing metabolic pathways for making biocompounds. Last but not least, Prof. Sven Panke (ETH Zurich, Switzerland), discussed technological advances in conceptual rethinking of how we design biocatalysts. Prof. Panke provided examples from his own work on nano- and picoliter reactor design for screening purposes, real-time mass spectrometry for pathway analysis and optimization, and protein switching for orthogonal in vitro pathways.
Prokaryotic genome engineering: Dr. Yu-Sin Jang (KAIST, South Korea) discussed the relative contribution of two butanol-forming pathways. Akio Kawahara-Kobayashi (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan) proposed that during the early stages in the evolution of the universal genetic code, fewer than 20 amino acids were probably used. Consequently, he constructed artificial genetic codes involving a reduced code alphabet to provide not only new insights into primordial genetic codes, but also an essential protein engineering tool for the assessment of the early stages of protein evolution, which is important in the improvement of pharmaceuticals. To meet the demands of industrial production, microbes should maintain a maximized and fixed carbon flux towards target metabolites regardless of fluctuations in the intracellular or extracellular environments. Prof. Yin Li (Institute of Microbiology, CAS, China) showed how synthetic biology can be used to improve the robustness of industrial microbes through engineering of dynamic controllability, and modular and hierarchical organization.
In the session Genome engineering of eukaryotic systems, several speakers presented the latest progress using various systems for various applications. Yeast was a favourite model system, including studies on Pichia pastoris Dr. Thomas Vogl (Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria), Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Yarrowia lipolytica (Prof. Hal Alper, University of Texas at Austin, USA).
In the session Designing cellular circuits, Prof. Hiroki Ueda presented the systems and synthetic biology of biological timings. Dr. Qi Quyang (Peking University, China) discussed biological network engineering in synthetic biology. A lecture on how cells respire using synthetic biology was given by Dr. Caroline M. Ajo-Franklin (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA). Modification of the RpoS network with an artificial small RNA was presented by Dr. Ye Jin (GIAT, Guangzhou, China). Dr. Mario A. Marchisio (ETH Zurich, Basel, Switzerland) showed the computational design and in vivo implement of Boolean gates.
Synthetic biology has great implications in sustainable development, in the session Metabolic engineering for chemicals, fuels and materials, many new exciting research were presented. Prof. George Chen reported the progress on genomic manipulation for microbial production of diverse polyesters. Dr. Brian F. Pfleger (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA) showed metabolic engineering of bacteria for production of specialty chemicals. Dr. Henrik Vibe Scheller (UC Berkeley, USA) presented engineering of plants for use as biorefinery feedstocks. Genetic design of bacterial inclusion bodies as emerging drug delivery platforms was reported by Dr. Antonio Villaverde (University Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain). Dr. Oliver Yu (Wuxi New Way Biotechnology Ltd, China) demonstrated microbial fermentation of styrene as an industrial monomer. Dr. Huimin Zhao (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA) presented a new tool for rapid construction of large DNA molecules and its applications, as well as a new tool for targeted genome engineering in mammalian systems. Dr. Dimitrios Stamou (University of Copenhagen, Denmark) showed the progress on lipid membrane nanotechnology for synthetic biology applications. Dr. Yanyan Li (Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China) reported that temperature-regulated membrane remodeling is essential for Francisella pathogenesis. Ryoji Sekine (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Yokohama-shi, Japan) talked about the progress on a repeatable diversification system for sustainable material production.
Emerging tools of synthetic biology: high GC content, high repetitive sequences, complex secondary structures, unstable structure elements, and a length greater than 5 kb are common challenges to those who work on gene synthesis. Dr. Li Zhu (GenScript, USA) shared his experiences with the research community to help alleviate some of the challenges in gene synthesis. Dr. Justin P. Gallivan (Emory University, USA) presented results from recent mechanistic studies that not only provide new insights into riboswitch function, but also suggest strategies for discovering riboswitches that respond to novel ligands. Cellular signaling reactions are classically investigated by measuring optical or electrical properties of individual living cells or suspensions of cells in microliter volumes. In his talk, Dr. Horst Vogel (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Switzerland) showed how the binding of ligands to cell surface receptors and the subsequent activation of signaling reactions can be monitored both in single cells and in single, sub-micrometer-sized na�ve vesicles with single-molecule sensitivity. Dr. Ramon Gonzalez (Rice University, USA) reported a recently constructed functional reversal of the β-oxidation cycle as a platform for the production of fuels and chemicals by engineering global regulators and eliminating native fermentative pathways
Votes for the poster awards were cast by all the speakers. During dinner on the last conference day, one Gold, two Silver, and three Bronze “medals” were presented to the winners. Haoqian Zhang (Peking University, China) was recognized with the Gold poster prize for his poster on constructing a gene network that performs Pavlovian conditioning by a module-based, model-guided approach.
During the five-days of the Synthetic Biology CSH Asia conference, more than 50 lectures and 46 posters presented work from the frontier of this dynamic field. With excellent presentations and social activities, the conference provided a broad platform for communication and discussion for everyone interested in Synthetic Biology. The next Synthetic Biology CSH Asia meeting will be held in 2014 and is eagerly awaited by all.
Hongyu Zhao, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China