The SynBio Mashup is a weekly review of articles and news related to synthetic biology and metabolic engineering. While we share most of this on our twitter feed, if you need to catch up on this week’s news just read ahead!
Last week, the European Commission released to the general public a preliminary version of the third and final opinion on research priorities in synthetic biology. A consortium of three scientific committees and experts in the field, including those at Synbio Consulting, advised the Commission on issues relating to public health, consumer safety, and the environment. In the previous opinions, we defined synthetic biology to be “the application of science, technology and engineering to facilitate and accelerate the design, manufacture and/or modification of genetic materials in living organisms”.
The second opinion discussed whether the current regulations of the European Union for genetically modified organisms are adequate in regulating the risks for human and animal health and the environment and suggestions were provided for changes to the risk assessment procedures and risk mitigation procedures, including safety locks.
In this third opinion, major gaps in knowledge necessary for proper risk assessment are identified and research topics that would help close those gaps are suggested. This opinion is written to mitigate risks for the foreseeable future, but will need to be updated to include the social, ethical, governance, and security implications of synthetic biology as well as human embryonic research. The European Commission is currently seeking consultation from the public about this third opinion. If you have any comments, suggestions, explanations, contributions or any other scientific information that you feel the group should investigate, please submit your written comments here.
BioBuilder: Synthetic Biology in the Lab is a new book written by Natalie Kuldell, PhD., Rachel Bernstein, Kathryn M Hart and Illustrated by Karen Ingram. It is a wonderful introduction to synthetic biology. Developed at MIT in collaboration with award winning high school teachers, the book allows for both teachers and students to get the background information to get involved in the newly emerging synthetic biology field.
Based on BioBuilder’s curriculum, this book provides instruction for hands-on learning for secondary or post-secondary classrooms and laboratories. It teaches the fundamentals of synthetic biology, the key aspects that researchers are investigating in the lab, and ethical issues associated with synthetic biology. In addition, students will learn the “design, test, build cycle”, test synthetic organisms built in a lab, measure variants of an enzyme-generating genetic circuit, investigate “bacterial photography”, or even build living systems to generate a diversity of colorful pigments. Pick up a copy today!
Intrexon and Fibrocell Announce IND Filing for Treatment of Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (RDEB)
On July 20th, 2015, Intrexon and Fibrocell announced their filing of an Investigational New Drug (IND) Application for FCX-007 for the treatment of recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB). Intrexon, a leader in the synthetic biology industry, and Fibrocell, a company committed to the treatment of rare skin and connective tissue disorders, teamed up to create this innovative product for a disease that currently has no cure.
RDEB is a rare genetic connective tissue disorder, caused by a mutation in the COL7A1 gene that codes for type VII collagen, which forms anchoring fibrils between layers of the skin. This disease currently affects 1,100 – 2,500 Americans and causes skin layers to separate causing blistering, open wounds, and scarring during daily activities, such as rubbing or scratching and often leads to death. Children affected by this disease are often called “butterfly children” because their skin is as delicate as the wings of a butterfly.
FCX-007 is a novel gene therapy treatment for RDEB. It is a cultured genetically modified autologous fibroblast that encodes COL7, ex-vivo, which is then injected at local blister and wound sites. This allows for more effective and localized treatment of affected areas instead of systemic treatment. In pre-clinical studies, there were no findings of toxicology in RDEB human skin xenograft severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice. Additionally, COL7 was found in dermal-epidermal junctions of RDEB cultured grafts in RDEB human skin xenograft SCID mice and there was no apparent systemic distribution of the vector in human skin xenograft SCID mice. These positive proofs of concept are allowing Intrexon and Fibrocell to initiate Phase I/II clinical trials by the end of this year.
On Thursday July 16th and Friday July 17th, 2015, the 4th Annual Sc2.0 & Synthetic Genomes Conference took place at New York Genome Center in New York City. The Synthetic Yeast Genome Project, Sc2.0, is attempting to generate an entirely synthetic genome for the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The conference discussed the collaborative effort of the Sc2.0 Research Consortium to generate 16 synthetic chromosomes of the designer genome. Genome engineering efforts, CRISPRs and designer nucleases and synthetic biology were also discussed. In addition, there was a panel discussion on genome engineering, industry and society, and keynote speakers from lab automation and DNA synthesis industries gave presentations. Look out for the next edition!
On July 27th, 2015, SynBioBeta is holding their annual SynBioBeta Activate! conference in Cambridge, UK. It will be held at Old Divinity School, St. John’s College, Trinity Street, Cambridge, UK from 5-9:30pm. The topic of discussion is Reprogramming Life With Synthetic Biology.
There will be presentations from a number of leading companies in the synthetic biology industry and discussions around new tools and the open source innovation. The schedule is as follows:
5:30-6:00 – Arrival and Networking
6:00-6:30 – Synthetic Biology: New Tools for an Industry at an Inflection Point
6:30-7:15 – SynBio Company Showcase
7:15-7:45 – Panel: Can Open Source Biological Innovation Succeed?
7:45-9:00 – Drinks, Finger Buffet and Networking
Tickets are £5.00 for students and £10.00 for everyone else.
That’s it for this week’s Synthetic Biology Mashup! A suggestion or a question? Shoot us an email!