February 1, 2017

Meet the Speakers: Will Synthetic Biology be the Key to Our Future Health?


SynBioBeta’s fifth annual London conference is fast approaching, with leaders in industry, academia, and investment once again set to converge on Imperial College London between April 4th and 6th. A full schedule of exciting events and sessions has been lined up, among which will be a panel discussion focusing on the role of synthetic biology in the future of healthcare solutions, including bio-based pharma, cell therapies, and more. Session 3 explores the question “Will Synthetic Biology be the Key to Our Future Health?” and will feature a number of distinguished panelists to weigh in on the issue.

Volker Morath is a researcher in Professor Arne Skerra’s lab at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). He is in the final stages of his PhD thesis on novel biologics for therapeutic applications. Volker is also a three-year iGEM medalist whose project was named Best Health or Medicine Project in 2010. His award-winning project from 2010 consisted of developing a BioBrick-style Virus Construction Kit for gene delivery. In 2013 and 2016 he served as an instructor for the TUM iGEM team, overseeing their projects developing transgenic moss filters and 3D tissue printing.

Tahel Altman is the CEO of SynVaccine, an Israel-based maker of vaccines and immunotherapies for infectious disease and cancer. SynVaccine was founded out of the Rad Biomed accelerator with a platform based on rational design of viral-based products. Prior to founding SynVaccine, Tahel was involved in a number of other healthcare startups, including ART Health Care Ltd. and TopgeniX Inc. She is the holder of several synthetic biology and medical device patents. Tahel is a graduate of the Stanford Biodesign Innovation Fellowship and obtained her MD from Tel Aviv University.

Aleksandra Wlodek is a Senior Biologist at Isomerase Therapeutics Ltd., a drug discovery and development company based in Cambridge, UK. Isomerase’s platform is described as consisting of biosynthetic engineering and semi-synthetic chemistry, providing a route for identifying key natural microbial products and developing them into pharmaceuticals. The company recently expanded its drug discovery collaboration with California-based Mount Tam Biotechnologies, Inc. Aleksandra received her PhD in Biological and Biomedical Sciences from the University of Cambridge, where she belonged to the Medical Research Council.

Ryan Cawood is the founder and CEO of Oxford Genetics Ltd., a synthetic biology company that provides DNA, protein, virus, and cell line products and services. Oxford’s goal is to develop the world’s most extensive collection of inter-compatible DNA parts for cellular engineering. Prior to founding Oxford Genetics, Ryan served as a postdoctoral researcher and scientist and the University of Oxford, where he obtained his PhD in Oncology.  He has extensive experience working with expression in viral, mammalian, plant, bacterial, and insect cell lines.

Kevin Holden is the Head of Synthetic Biology at Bay Area-based startup Synthego. He received his PhD in Microbiology from the University of California, Davis and has a 10-year background in metabolic pathway engineering and biotechnology. Kevin’s company is the maker of the first and only synthetic full-length sgRNA kits for CRISPR genome engineering, a technology that is poised to impact healthcare medicine in unprecedented ways. In January of this year, Synthego closed a $41 million Series B financing round to grow their commercial operations, expand  internationally, and introduce new products.