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This week's Synthetic Biology UK conference, jointly organised by the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Biology, will provide a focal point to showcase UK synthetic biology research, to build the research community in the field and to engage with the wider society.

Synthetic Biology has been heralded as a transformative scientific area: a turning point on how we understand and exploit biological systems. It aims to design, re-design and construct new biological systems for useful purposes that could have a huge impact on humans, health and environment. The field has expanded rapidly in the UK and has been identified as one of the ‘eight great technologies’ that will propel the UK to future growth.

“Synthetic biology means different things to different scientists.” Dr Vitor Pinheiro, one of the conference organisers, explains; “It brings together different disciplines and perspectives to gain an unprecedented level of understanding and control over biology. It asks what biology could be, it questions what biology is and it delivers new possibilities. It promises sustainability, safety, novel cures and novel materials. The challenge now is to convert this promise into reality. This meeting is an ideal focal point and launch pad to ensure that the UK is best placed to discover, develop and deliver on the promise of synthetic biology.”

Keynote speeches will explore how synthetic biology could be used: to underpin long-term human space presence by producing bespoke tools, food and organs on demand (Lynn Rothschild); and to create novel enzymes that expand the repertoire of chemical reactions available to biology (Thomas Ward).

"Biology is self-replicating, self-repairing, and produces many biomaterials, not to mention food, clothes, pharmaceuticals and, of course, ourselves. It even created our oxygen-rich atmosphere.” Dr Lynn Rothschild, one of the keynote speakers, explains; “With synthetic biology to enhance what nature has already wrought, accelerating the glacial pace of evolution, synthetic biology will be a key enabling technology to allow long-term settlement on the moon, Mars and beyond.”

Talks will include a range of topics covering the wide spectrum of synthetic biology in the UK: creating life from its most basic building blocks and processes; producing high-value chemicals; regulating gene expression with likely applications in cancer treatment; and discussing biosafety and societal impact of the technology.

The conference, which is being held at Kingsway Hall Hotel, London from Tuesday 1st – Thursday 3rd September, has been curated by the synthetic biology community with the themes: Thinking, Measuring, Developing and Making.

Details of the programme are available on the Biochemical Society website.

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