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Newly published book “Synthetic aesthetics”

SynthSys members, Dr Jane Calvert and Dr Pablo Schyfter (both social scientists) and Professor Alistair Elfick (an engineer) are co-authors of a newly published book “Synthetic aesthetics” published by the MIT Press and launched today in London at an event at the V&A.

SynthSys wins £1.8M for Genome Foundry

SynthSys has been awarded up to £1.8M to build a “Genome Foundry” to pioneer developments in medicine and other key areas of research. The Edinburgh Genome Foundry will build and study DNA to inform the development of products with applications in health, agriculture and biofuels.


The Foundry’s researchers will seek to create and modify long strands of DNA – up to 1 mega base pairs – that can be used to equip cells or organisms with new or improved functions. This could lead to advances such as programming stem cells for use in personalised medicines, developing bacteria that can detect disease in the gut, or altering the DNA of biofuel crops to enable a higher yield.


SynthSys PI in world first

Edinburgh scientists have helped build a fully functioning yeast chromosome from scratch. An international team of scientists redesigned a chromosome found in brewer’s yeast using computer software, and rebuilt it by piecing together a series of short segments they made in the lab. Dr Patrick Yizhi Cai of SynthSys and a co-author on the paper says: Our Synthetic and Systems Biology Institute is really at the forefront of synthetic genomics, and we are glad to be part of this landmark paper. The synthetic structure was shown to function like an ordinary chromosome when it was transplanted into living yeast cells, which survived and grew as normal. The study marks the first time that scientists have rebuilt a chromosome from a class of complex organisms -known as eukaryotes - which includes animals, plants and humans. Researchers have previously recreated chromosomes found in bacteria and viruses.

Second UK–Korea Workshop on Synthetic Biology

The Second UK–Korea Workshop on Synthetic Biology took place on the 20th of February 2014 in KAIST (the Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology) in Daejeon, South Korea. Alistair Elfick, Patrick Cai, Gary Loake, Jane Calvert, Robin Williams (STIS, Edinburgh), John Heap (Imperial) and Max Ryadnov (National Physical Laboratory) all gave talks at the workshop, which also included talks by Korean professors Byung Kwan Cho (on directed evolution of the reduced E. coli genome), Dong-Myung Kim (on cell free systems), Duhee Bang (on high-throughput DNA synthesis) and Ki Jun Jeong (on the engineering of Corynebacterium glutamicum).

The UK team had a fun-packed three days in Korea, which also included a tour of the impressive gene synthesis company Bioneer, and the labs at KAIST (currently the world’s biggest open plan laboratory space, until the Crick Institute steals the crown.)

Jamie Davies: Life Unfolding

Congratulations to Jamie Davies of SynthSys  whose book, ‘Life Unfolding: How the Human Body Creates Itself,’ was published on 27th Feb 2014 by Oxford University Press.

European Congress on Biotechnology

Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre for Scotland

Just before Christmas last year, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) confirmed funding of £10m to seed the establishment of the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC).  This will form the basis of an expected £45m spend on research projects and skills development in Industrial Biotechnology aimed at bringing these technologies to the market while making a substantive impact on the Scottish economy.  IBioIC has 13 academic partners across Scotland including the University of Edinburgh and will be initially based at Strathclyde.

A launch event for IBioIC took place at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) on Wednesday 5th February. Guest Speaker was John Swinney MSP (see photo), Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth. 

Gordon Plotkin receives the EATCS Award 2014

Congratulations to Gordon Plotkin from the School of Informatics who has been given the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science Award for "his lifetime contribution of a research corpus of exceptional depth and influence across a broad range of areas within theoretical computer science.”  

Autodesk supports Genome Engineering at Edinburgh

Autodesk Inc., a Fortune 1000 company that develops software used globally to unlock creativity and solve broad challenges, is investing in genome engineering at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Autodesk is financing a three-year PhD stipend for Wei Liu, an international student in the lab of Dr Patrick Cai’s group, to conduct research in the area of synthetic biology and genome engineering. Wei will focus on developing novel DNA assembly methods to help construct the synthesis of the largest synthetic chromosome in the UK – yeast chromosome VII that is one million base pairs in length.

Chancellor's Fellowships

As part of a University-wide recruitment programme, the School of Biological Sciences seeks to appoint new Chancellor’s Fellows as an investment in the future of teaching and research. These prestigious Fellowship awards are aimed at early-career individuals of the highest potential who have begun to establish a reputation for the highest quality research at the forefront of their discipline and who have a commitment to learning and teaching at university level. We expect to appoint at least three Fellows. Substantial mentoring and development support will be available through and beyond the Fellowship period.

We will be particularly pleased to receive applications from candidates whose research interests cross two or more of these priority areas. Exceptional candidates with research interests in other areas of biological sciences will also be considered.

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