Cambridge website for Synthetic Biology resources

Compiled by Jim Haseloff at the University of Cambridge. SpannerPlantLogo140This site contains details of recent papers and activity in Synthetic Biology, with particular emphasis on: (i) development of standards in biology and DNA parts, (ii) microbial and (iii) plant systems, (iv) research and teaching in the field at the University of Cambridge, (v) hardware for scientific computing and instrumentation, (vi) tools for scientific productivity and collected miscellany.

Similar to the Cambridge-based Raspberry Pi and OpenLabTools initiatives, we promote the use of low cost and open source tools - in our case for use in biological engineering.

Google: Synthetic Biology news

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Meetings: Synthetic Biology

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Strategic roadmap for Synthetic Biology in the UK


A strategic roadmap for synthetic biology was published in July 2012 with the key purpose of developing 'a roadmap that defines the likely timeframe and actions required to establish a world leading Synthetic Biology industry within the UK.’ The roadmap, produced by an independent panel of experts for the government's Department for Business Innovation and Skills, sets out a shared vision for realising the potential of synthetic biology in the UK.

Five core themes for the roadmap emerged from this work:
1. Foundational science and engineering: the need for sufficient capabilities for the UK to maintain a leading edge
2. Continuing responsible research and innovation: including the need for awareness, training and adherence to regulatory frameworks
3. Developing technology for commercial use
4. Applications and markets: identifying growth markets and developing applications
5. International cooperation

To achieve this, the roadmap outlines five key recommendations:
1. Invest in a network of multidisciplinary centres to establish an outstanding UK synthetic biology resource.
2. Build a skilled, energised and well-funded UK-wide synthetic biology community [via the Synthetic Biology Special Interest Group].
3. Invest to accelerate technology responsibly to market.
4. Assume a leading international role.
5. Establish a leadership council

The roadmap report and an A3 schematic representation of the timelines are available online, after registration at:

In planta cytometry

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Integrated genetic and computation methods for in planta cytometry
Fernán Federici, Lionel Dupuy, Laurent Laplaze, Marcus Heisler & Jim Haseloff
Nature Methods, Advance publication April 2012 (DOI 10.1038/nmeth.1940)

There is a critical need for improved techniques for the quantitative measurement of biological parameters within living systems. This new publication describes the integrated use of advanced genetic and imaging techniques for automated quantitative analysis of cell growth and genetic activity in living plant tissues. With this new technique, fluorescent protein markers can be used to identify cells, map cell geometries and provide ratiometric measurement of gene expression within intact tissues. The procedure, which we term in planta cytometry, allows the measurement of cellular properties in intact tissue, while retaining the cellular context for further studies.

The routine consists of four steps. (i) A genetic marker is used for the specific labeling of nuclei and cell membranes in transgenic plants. (ii) Fluorescence microscopy and image processing allows the counting of cells and extraction of positional information using a particle search algorithm (iii) Identified nuclei are used to initiate an active contour segmentation algorithm that uses a fluorescent signal located at the plasma membrane to extract information regarding size, shape and topology of cells. (iii) Cell-specific gene expression is quantified by ratiometric measurement of spectrally distinct nuclear fluorescent proteins expressed under the control of different regulated promoters. This new cytometry technique allows one to quantitatively measure cell activities within living organisms, and to precisely reconstruct cellular dynamics - and to produce a numerical description that can be used to inform computer models.

University of Cambridge.

Wellcome Trust - MIT postdoctoral fellowships

WT MITpostdocs2012Wellcome Trust–Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Postdoctoral Fellowships provide four years’ support for recently qualified postdoctoral researchers to gain experience of research at the interfaces between biology/medicine and mathematics, engineering, computer, physical or chemical sciences.

This scheme offers opportunities for postdoctoral scientists to undertake research at the interfaces between biology/medicine and mathematics, engineering, computer, physical or chemical sciences, firstly at MIT and then at a UK institution. Candidates will be expected to identify an important biomedical research question and to propose a personal interdisciplinary training programme to achieve their research aims.

The aim is to support those who will train in a new research area that is complementary to, but distinct from, their current field of expertise, to enable an interdisciplinary approach to their research question - e.g. you might be a physicist wanting to work on a biology-based programme, or a biologist wanting to undertake a bio-engineering project. For more information see: Deadline: 11 June 2012.

Research news at Cambridge University

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Online resources, including bibliography, weblinks and posters, for work with the simple plant system, Marchantia polymorpha.

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OpenLabTools: open technology in Cambridge


The OpenLabTools Project is a new initiative for the development of low cost and open access scientific tools at the University of Cambridge. With support from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, student projects include data acquisition, sensing, actuating, processing and 3D manufacturing, see the website.

Research Studies

PhD Studentships in Cambridge

The Board of Graduate Studies manages admission of the University's graduate students. Prospective students should start here - for an introduction to the University of Cambridge, the courses we offer, how to apply for postgraduate study, how your application will be processed, and immigration and other important information.

Click here for more information about Cambridge