Innovating research, policy and education in synthetic and systems biology

Exploring Grand Challenges

The Centre has continued to explore the potential opportunities for synthetic biology in developing regions of the world over the past month with funding from two Global Challenge Research Funding (GCRF) awards.

On March 15-17, Professor Susan Rosser and Dr Liz Fletcher headed to Nairobi to join a workshop organized by Prof Paul Freemont of Imperial College London in collaboration with Kenya's National Commission for Science, Technology, and Innovation. Over the three-day event, we heard from representatives from research institutes across East African nations about ongoing research activity, the regulatory and policy framework on pertinent issues such as GM. Round table discussions helped to tease out the local needs for health and welfare of humans and animals, the environment, and opportunities for the bioeconomy. Imperial College, Cambridge and Edinburgh researchers provided overviews of research, training, and entrepreneurship activities in synthetic biology from across the UK. Our African colleagues are intrigued with the possibilities offered by synthetic biology and there was a great deal of enthusiasm to leverage GCRF funding to build capacity and capability locally. You can read a bit more about the outcome of the meeting here

On March 24 and 25, the Centre invited seven eminent professors from Chinese universities and research institutes to Edinburgh to explore opportunities for collaboration. This was a follow up to the visit last November to BGI and the Chinese Gene bank in Shenzhen. Our visitors met research leaders at the Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine and then attended a one-day sandpit with 35 Edinburgh researchers to define and interrogate the 'grand challenges' and brainstorm collaborative solutions. For many, a 'slide-free day' was something of a novelty, but there was some enthusiastic participation which lead to many ambitious and imaginative ideas no doubt assisted by the wonderful Edinburgh skyline views from the roof top venue views and some Tunnocks caramel wafers. The day was seamlessly facilitated by Alison Gray from Skillfluence.

We are looking forward to further developing our overseas links by leveraging GCRF funding and working in close collaboration with our partner UK Synbio Centres.

Our Chinese guests enjoyed views from Edinburgh Castle after a whisky tasking experience.