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It’s now possible to ‘read’ DNA, but what about ‘writing’ DNA? Can we program or reprogram biological systems and even generate new life forms? Join Paul Freemont of Imperial College London as he explores the extraordinary and cutting-edge field of synthetic biology.
The last few years have seen rapid technological advances in ‘reading’ DNA. We are now able to ‘read’ any genetic code for any living organism including our own. Advances have also given us the ability to chemically synthesise larger pieces of DNA, enabling us to manipulate biological cells by rewriting their DNA code. For the first time in human history there now exists the possibility of applying engineering principles and design tools to program or reprogram biological systems and even generate new life forms. This is the remarkable field of synthetic biology.
Paul will explore how the powerful combination of molecular biology, design and engineering could lead to a ‘Biotechnological Revolution’ that could be applied to many fields including medicine and healthcare. He’ll also consider the implications of synthetic biology. It may provide us with the ability to design novel ‘living’ therapies and drug delivery systems as well as the construction of simple, cheap and reliable ‘point-of-care’ diagnostics. However, how will it impact societal and cultural concerns such as biosecurity and biosafety, environmental release and the creation of synthetic life? And what is natural, what is manmade and who decides what is a good idea or good biological design?
Professor Paul Freemont is Co-director and Co-founder of the Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (since 2009) and the National UPK Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology (SynbiCITE; since 2013) at Imperial College London. He is also currently Head of the new Section of Structural Biology in the Department of Medicine at Imperial (since 2014).
Paul was previously the Head of the Division of Molecular Biosciences (2005-2012), Head of the Imperial College Centre for Structural Biology (2000-2005) having joined Imperial from Cancer Research UK London Research Institute. His research interests span from understanding the molecular mechanisms of human diseases, to the development of synthetic biology platform technologies and biosensors.
He was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation in 2009 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and Royal Society of Medicine. He was a co-author of the British Government’s UK Synthetic Biology Roadmap and has been a passionate advocate for synthetic biology research and translation both in Europe and internationally. He participated as a technical expert in the United Nations Convention for Biological Diversity and Biological Weapons Convention. He is also a working group member of the US NIST synthetic biology standards consortium.
He has also been active in a number of public engagement activities including V&A Friday Late Synthetic Aesthetics (2014), Co-curator of ‘Grow Your Own’ synthetic biology exhibition at Dublin Science Gallery (2013), Co-organiser of Imperial Fringe Event ‘Life as we know it’ London (2013), participant in the RCUK Public Dialogue on Synthetic Biology (2010) and the Royal Academy of Engineering public engagement on Synthetic Biology (2008).
Paul has appeared regularly on radio and television broadcasts on the subject of synthetic biology.