latest news pages

Neonatal sepsis studies published in Nature Communications

Babies suffering from bacterial infections like sepsis could benefit from better treatment, thanks to a ground-breaking study.

SynthSys PI, Professor Peter Ghazal, is amongst the Edinburgh team who have identified a signal consisting of 52 molecular characters - like a biological tweet - that is specific to bacterial infection.

The findings could help develop a test for bacterial infection in newborns, using a single drop of blood.

Using blood samples from newborn babies in Edinburgh, the study investigated thousands of signals written in biological code known as messenger RNAs.Through meticulous code-breaking the scientists were able to decipher with close to 100 per cent accuracy the signals generated by an infant’s genome that specifically tell if they are suffering from sepsis.

BGI announces flagship project with Edinburgh Genome Foundry

BGI announces flagship project with Edinburgh Genome Foundry to synthesize the largest synthetic eukaryotic chromosome in the UK.
BGI, one of the world’s largest genomics research centers, and the University of Edinburgh, UK have signed a collaboration agreement to pursue an ambitious synthetic biology “construction” project worth up to £1Million. The two institutes will team up to synthesize synthetic yeast chromosome VII in the Edinburgh Genome Foundry, recently funded by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and co-directed by Prof. Susan Rosser and Dr. Patrick Yizhi Cai.  

Edinburgh’s new Plant Science Network launched

A new network assembling expertise in food security, environmental sustainability and related policy across the Capital was launched at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on Wednesday 25th June 2014.

The network has been established in recognition that a diverse set of expertise is required to solve some of the most pressing challenges to our planet. EPS will become an active forum to stimulate interdisciplinary research collaborations, new training opportunities and to raise the profile of the world-leading plant and social science research ongoing in and around the Capital.  

DARPA funding for SynthSys PI

Professor Vincent Danos has been awarded a ~$2M grant from US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for a 42-month project "Executable Biology" within the DARPA Big Mechanism Programme.

DARPA’s funding of the “The Big Mechanism Program” stems from the recognition that complex systems such as ecosystems, brains and economic and social systems have many components and processes but often these are studied piecemeal. It then becomes very difficult to build complete, explanatory models of complicated systems.

Although the focus of the Big Mechanism program is cancer biology the goal of the program is to develop technologies for a new kind of science in which research is integrated more or less immediately—automatically or semi-automatically—into causal, explanatory models of unprecedented completeness and consistency.

SynthSys and Tianjin University to collaborate in synthetic and systems biology

Professor Yingjin Yuan, Tianjin University and Professor David Gray, Head of the

June 18th, 2014  The University of Edinburgh and Tianjin University today signed a memorandum of understanding outlining their intention to establish research and teaching collaborations in mutually interesting areas of synthetic and systems biology. 


OpenPlant ERASynBio Summer School

Introduction to Synthetic Biology in plant systems

14th - 20th September 2014, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK

The OpenPlant consortia (John Innes Centre and University of Cambridge) and Synthetic Biology ERA-NET (ERASynBio) are looking for PhD students and early career postdoctoral researchers to attend an advanced summer school on synthetic biology in complex systems.

Training will be provided in: DNA assembly, genome editing, metabolic engineering, transformation, new plant systems, genomic resources, software modelling, instrumentation, biotechnology and social impact.

Training, travel and subsistence costs will be paid for by ERASynBio.

Details of speaker, mentors and the application process will to be announced soon shortly on the websites of ERASynBio ( and OpenPlant (

New insights into gene expression control

The characteristics of any cell (phenotype) in a genetically identical population is determined by the level of expression of individual genes. Ramon Grima and colleagues at SynthSys have developed a general modelling framework for quantifying switching between a number of different phenotypes due to noise at the transcriptional,  translational, post-transcriptional and post-translational levels. The results shed light on how cells encode decisions, how they retain memory of their environment, as well as postulating new mechanisms for generating and controlling intracellular oscillations. The paper was published in PNAS.




Sustainability Silver Award

Congratulations to SynthSys Lab (2.18) for achieving the Edinburgh Sustainability Silver Award. SynthSys members Eliane Salvo-Chirnside and Katalin Kis attended the award ceremony at Teviot Place on 22nd April 2014.
Thanks to everyone for their hard work and continuing commitment!



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.


Syndicate content