Synthetic Biology in Academia and Industry - towards a thriving Bioeconomy
On May 13, stakeholders from academia and industry discussed the future trajectories of Synthetic Biology. The German Association for Synthetic Biology (GASB e.V.) and the LOEWE cluster CompuGene organized the “SynBio World Cafe” in the Georg-Christoph-Lichtenberg-Haus in Darmstadt. This event brought together representatives from research institutions, corporations, startups and venture capital.
“Synthetic Biology is an emerging and steadily growing engineering discipline. However, Germany still lags behind in the SynBio revolution”, said Max Mundt, vice-head of the German Association for Synthetic Biology, and organizer of the SynBio World Cafe. “The field is being accelerated by technological developments including faster and cheaper DNA synthesis and the CRISPR/Cas technology. But in Germany, we lack the networks between academia and industry for successful SynBio applications to reach the market.”
To address this challenge, the German Association for Synthetic Biology (GASB e.V) together with CompuGene, the LOEWE Research Cluster of the TU Darmstadt, organized the SynBio World Cafe. The event aimed to foster open discussions between academic and industry experts. A vivid dialogue developed about how Synthetic Biology shapes the future bioeconomical landscape in Germany.
Dr. Max Mundt (GASB), Prof. Heinz Köppl (CompuGene) and Dr. Jörg Mampel (BRAIN AG) gave the keynote lectures.
In three discussion rounds, the participants focused their collective attention on the topic, discussed and extracted ideas to gain deeper insights. In the final round, previous discussions and ideas were summarized and turned into an action plan.
The participants explored CO2 capture, utilization and highlighted the necessity of market analysis to match biofuel production to demand. The need for a better understanding of academic and industry stakeholders. The importance of SynBio success stories for public perception was stressed. Engagement strategies were laid out to communicate developments in foodtech and agtech. Increasing adoption rates of SynBio applications were envisioned in the biopharma sector when regulatory hurdles are reduced.
The action plans and background information are the essences of a highly productive workshop and will serve as guidelines for the next developments in Synthetic Biology in Germany.
About the Author:
Nicolas Krink, Initiator, Co-Founder and currently academic Officer of GASB. Nicolas is working as Ph.D. Student at the Max Planck Institute in Marburg working on Synthetic Biology in yeast.
The German Association for Synthetic Biology (GASB) is the platform for anyone working in Synthetic Biology within Germany. GASB organizes events, publishes political statements and informs members about anything SynBio-related. Our goal is to establish Synthetic Biology as a key discipline in research and development. Join us!
CompuGene is a research collaboration from TU Darmstadt. The guiding concept of CompuGene is the development of design methods for complex genetic circuits for robust and widespread use in synthetic biology applications such as biosensors, biocomputing or metabolic engineering.
Synthetic Biology holds the promise to be a driving force for the advancement of the bioeconomy. In the not so distant future, SynBio applications are predicted to be part of our everyday life; from the energy we use, to the food we eat and even the beauty products we apply.
The involved technologies, such as DNA synthesis and gene editing, are advancing at a rapid pace. While academic researchers establish the basis for the transformations to come, startups develop promising applications and established companies look into how they can leverage SynBio in their respective fields.
The potential benefits of SynBio are huge - but so are the challenges.
The SynBio World Cafe was co-organized by CompuGene and GASB to tackle those challenges. Top-tier representatives from industry and academia were invited to address the pressing issues to advance the bioeconomy using Synthetic Biology. The aim of the meeting was to develop new networks within the SynBio community and support interested stakeholders in incorporating SynBio into their industries. The discussions focused on four sectors:
Healthcare and Biopharma
Commodities and Materials
Food and Agriculture
The meeting took place at the Georg-Christoph-Lichtenberg-Haus in Darmstadt from 11 am to 6 pm. The SynBio World Cafe is an invite-only event series but there is a limited number of tickets available for anyone who can give valuable input to the discussion.
In the field of Synthetic Biology, scientist see biology through the eyes of engineers. Standardization and digitalization of biological parts, as well as an ever growing toolbox for bioengineering enable researchers to build novel biological systems with specific functions in a plug-and-play fashion, rather than trial-and-error.
World Cafe Methodology
The World Cafe Method is a format for group dialogues, which are held in a hospitable environment (such as a Cafe). Meetings start with a introductory session to set the context, followed by three rounds of small group discussions, each one revolving around one of the four sectors highlighted above. Insights and patterns from the individual group discussions are “harvested”, either graphically or in writing, to be made available to the participants for future use.
The venue of the SynBio World Cafe is the prestigious Georg-Christoph-Lichtenberg-Haus, Dieburger Straße 241, 64287 Darmstadt.