Plant synthetic biology in Europe

Categories: GARNet, synthetic biology
Comments: 1 Comment
Published on: May 20, 2014


On 8-9 May I attended a meeting hosted by PlantEngine to discuss the idea of a synthetic biology repository in Europe. The presentations were varied and interesting, and hopefully the other delegates enjoyed mine (PDF) too,

The meeting was at VTT in Espoo, a city very close to Helsinki. The local host Heiko Rischer gave a brief introduction to VTT, which is a Finnish institute but has bases all over the world. VTT is very separate from the university system, and although fundamental research gets done there it has a big commercial focus and strong links to Finnish industry. For example, VTT developed Arctic cloudberry stem cell technology for cosmetics with the R&D team from Finnish skincare company Lumene Oy.

PlantEngine itself was introduced by lead PI Heribert Warczecha. It is a European network focused on enhancing capacity in plant metabolic engineering by activities like defining target pathways, disseminate new technologies, and setting standards. There are currently over 70 labs in 23 EU countries in the network. They run training schools and workshops, and fund short-term scientific missions – check it out if you’re looking for funding for a short research trip to another lab.

One of PlantEngine’s aims is to explore synthetic biology for engineering plant products, which is the reason for the meeting I attended. Presentations were a mix of synthetic biology tools, which I have already posted about (and guest post to come), existing synthetic biology repositories and evolving centralized repositories for other resources.

I learned a lot at the meeting, mostly about services and groups I didn’t know existed, and I was also interested to hear European views on the idea of a local biological parts repository, a subject discussed a lot at GARNet. This meeting raised some ideas I hadn’t considered before, like extending a repository beyond ‘parts’ to ‘pathways’ and certain steps that might be taken to deliver resources to the community while ultimately building up to a full-blown physical repository.


Services presented at the PlantEngine meeting in Helsinki

Golden Gate/MoClo and GoldenBraid – These cloning methods were described in this post.

The Microbial Resource Research Infrastructure (MIRRI) and the European Infrastructure of Open Screening Platforms for Chemical Biology (EU OpenScreen) – These are two ESFRI funded networks slowing pulling together existing and new activities to provide a European central community service.

Addgene and iGem – I have no doubt that the majority of readers will be familiar with these two synthetic biology giants. You might not be aware of the Addgene blog though.

GARNet – Your favourite local plant science network.

OpenPlant and SynBio@TSL – To find out about the plant synthetic biology research consortium funded this year, go to the OpenPlant website. SynBio@TSL is the main way their parts and tools are being shared at the moment.


Image credit: Sava Marinkovic via freeimages

1 Comment - Leave a comment
  1. […] promised in my posts about the Plant Engine meeting I attended a couple of weeks ago (1, 2), here is Diego Orzaez to explain his GoldenBraid cloning method and online DNA assembly […]

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