New Phytologist Synthetic Biology Workshop: SynBio toolboxes for de novo peptide synthesis

Categories: synthetic biology
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: June 26, 2012

As exciting as this research in this post is, to me as a humble traditional molecular biologist the most impressive ‘toolboxes’ were the truly synthetic ones involving no genes at all. Dek Woolfson (University of Bristol) and Samuel Stupp (Northwestern University, USA) presented astonishing work on custom peptides.

The Woolfson group is working towards making a toolbox for building proteins. They chose to work on α-helical coiled-coils because these peptide structures have that essential orthogonality built in – the correct peptides form coiled-coils irrespective of the surrounding domains, which can then be customised to fit the designer’s requirements. The group is now able to synthesise a number of structures using coiled-coils.

from Moutevelis and Woolfson (2009) JMB 385:726 (Click on image to go to paper)


Plant Sentinels and Robolobsters at the New Phytologist Synthetic Biology Workshop

Categories: synthetic biology
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Published on: June 15, 2012

In the rainy aftermath of last week’s Jubilee celebrations, a group of synthetic biologists gathered in Bristol for the 4th New Phytologist Workshop. Participants were treated to three days of stimulating talks on a wide range of topics all considered to be ‘Synthetic Biology.’ GARNet was there, and will be posting highlights, like the plant sentinel in the video below.

Video courtesy of the Medford Lab at Colorado State University.

So what is synthetic biology? The consensus definition of synthetic biology, or synbio, appears to be  ‘the design and construction of novel biologically based parts, devices and systems from first principles, or the re-design of existing natural systems for useful purposes.’

Synbio differs from traditional science by viewing biological systems as an engineer would view a machine – something to be created, not necessarily something that needs to be fully understood. The process consists of a cycle of hypothesis, computer aided design, production of molecule or system, analysis of results, repeat. Creating synthetic biology tools and resources (libraries of promotors, active sites, peptide sequences … the list is endless) of course involves a great deal of understanding of biological systems, but to an extent the unknown remains unknown, the most important thing is that you understand how the building blocks of your synthetic system work.


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