Synthetic Biology

Course content

Synthetic biology applies a novel conceptual framework to biology. By introducing engineering concepts, synthetic biology forms the basis for new developments in medicine, pharmaceutical science, plant biology, sustainable development, and material science. Fundamental technologies that are central to synthetic biology include: DNA synthesis, high-throughput genetic manipulation methods, facile access to off-the-shelf standardized biological parts, registries and foundries of parts, and computer-aided genetic design. Advanced tools that enable the integration of basic synthetic units into multi component devices are continuously being developed, and a variety of modern analytical techniques and computational tools are applied in the design and testing of new systems. It is foreseen that synthetic biology will adderess several of the world’s most pressing challenges.

The course will bridge across different areas of contemporary synthetic biology. It will start from metabolic engineering of organisms for the production of high-value compounds and continue to explore topics at the frontier of synthetic biology, such as biosensors, gene circuits, synthetic metabolism, synthetic evolution, minimal organisms, etc. Some examples of topics covered in the course are given below:

1. General concepts and enabling technologies for synthetic biology
2. Plant metabolic engineering
3. Engineering photosynthetic organisms for light-driven synthesis
4. Yeast metabolic engineering for the production of high-value compounds
5. Single molecule fluorescence microscopy for the analysis of synthetic biosystems
6. Lipid membranes as tools for synthetic biology
7. Whole-cell biosensors
8. Engineering and evolution of synthetic metabolic pathways
9. Biosafety-Biosecurity

 

Beside the selected topics, the course includes a journal club where hot topics in synthetic biology are discussed.

 

In addition to the lectures, a focal part of the course is the development of  specific case studies by the students. In groups, the students are invited to bring their own synthetic biology ideas to life by conceiving and designing a complete synthetic biology project. The case studies include the complete activities  from conceptualization to experimental design, intellectual property issues, commercialization strategy, communication and human practices, ethical aspects, and consideration of biosecurity issues.

Education

MSc Programme in Biochemistry
MSc Programme in Biotechnology
MSc Programme in Biotechnology with a minor subject
MSc Programme in Molecular Biomedicine

Learning outcome

Participants will obtain broad knowledge on the main subject areas of synthetic biology with emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. A wide variety of topics in metabolic engineering, biochemistry, protein engineering, biotechnology, nano-technology, and structural biology will be covered. These insights will develop creativity and the ability to work across disciplines. By introducing advanced techniques from various research areas, students will acquire practical skills that can be applied to other research fields. The course will enhance group collaboration and interdisciplinary communication.

Knowledge
1. Understanding of the basic concepts of synthetic biology.
2. Acquisition of the common vocabulary essential for synthetic biology (e.g. standard part, chassis, etc.).
3. Familiarization with specific scientific, ethical, and regulatory aspects.
4. Knowledge of the prospects of combining biology with engineering and technology.
5. Broad insight and coherent knowledge on interdisciplinary research.
6. Familiarization with the most recent published literature in the field and insight into ongoing research.

Skills
1. Understand how fundamental tools can be applied to the engineering of biology.
2. Identify aspects of biotechnology that faciltate or prevent the faster, reliable programming of natural systems.
3. Understand current and future applications of synthetic biology.
4. Apply fundamental laboratory approaches into engineering biology.
5. Ability to engage in interdisciplinary research.
6. Preparation of reports and proper handling of scientific literature.

Competences
1. Ability to apply synthetic biology concepts and principles to solve a real life problem or develop new applications.
2. Ability to discuss the public concerns and ethical dilemmas and the potential solutions offered by synthetic biology.
3. Capability to find a solution for a problem and work independently.
4. Able to apply the concepts and techniques of synthetic biology to other subjects at a high academic level.
5. Able to work efficiently in a collaborative work situation.

6. Ability to prepare and present oral and written work.

Lecture: Delivery of material in lecture format (40%) Discussion or group work & case studies (30%) Lab work: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (30%)

A combination of original research papers, review articles and laboratory manual

The equivalent of a BSc in natural science (biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, chemistry, physics or medical science).

Oral
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
ECTS
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 min (no preparation time)
Individual oral examination based on presentation of case study and discussion of and questions to the written experimental reports and to synthetic biology in general.

Weight: Oral examination 100%
Aid
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examinators
Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

Part time Master and Diploma courses

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 40
  • Preparation
  • 65,5
  • Theory exercises
  • 50
  • Practical exercises
  • 50
  • Exam
  • 0,5
  • English
  • 206,0