June 15, 2017

SB7.0 The Seventh International Meeting on Synthetic Biology: Days 1 and 2


From ethical dilemmas about preservation of wildlife to the innovation of thousands of different variants of a single biological organism, SB7.0 has covered it all!

Over the past 2 days, experts from around the globe have convened at the National University of Singapore’s University Cultural Center to discuss their most recent research including topics  such as healthcare and  technological applications to revolutionize the field of synthetic biology as well as the role of synthetic biology applications in biodiversity & conservation.

Day 1 opened with the panel “From Ideas to Impact’.  Reshma Shetty, Co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks explained how her firm has created the world’s first foundry to scale and automate thousands of biological designs. Her team’s’ innovation has helped automate and expedite this rather tedious process, giving researchers one less worry!

Day 2  focused on the development of ingenious new biomaterials. Xiao-Xia Xia and her team from Shanghai Jiao Tong University have optimized the process of creating synthetic dragline spider silk by using bacteria containing the gene to produce this silk from spiders. This silk has high tensile strength and by varying the silk density with elastin, the team generated variants of synthetic hydrogel of different stiffness to act as a medium to grow cells.  Their work has many different applications such as contact lenses, and glue.

The second half of the day was laced with varied topics about conservation of wildlife. Many researchers spoke about ways to conserve animal species near extinction. Frank Rheindt, a researcher at the National University of Singapore contrasted the ethical dilemma his team faced when deciding to breed an organism that is the last of its kind with another closely related organism. An interesting question posed to the panel at the Q&A session was on about the definition of “nature”. “And what is considered natural”. Kent Redford, a session speaker reasoned that, “There is no one universal definition of the word (Nature). What is deemed by someone as this is different from what it is deemed by someone else.”  Cultural diversity is key factor in why the word has no universal definition.

Day 3 of SB7.0 promises to offer as many interesting discussions as the first two days. Can’t make it to Singapore, be sure to watch the livestream here:  http://sb7.info/

Written by: Lee Hwee Siong Julian, National University of Singapore