Challenges in Top-Down, Bottom-Up, Computational and ELSI Approaches in Synthetic Biology a symposium sponsored by SynBioNT

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Thursday 18 March 2010 - Monday 22 March 2010

Crowne Plaza Hotel Nottingham, Wollaton Street, Nottingham NG1 5RH

One of the biggest unanswered scientific questions is how what we term as life actually emerged from the primordial soup several billion years ago. As a proxy for understanding the question of the origins of life, synthetic biologists are attempting to develop "artificial life", and are doing so by following two separate and competing routes: the top-down and bottom-up approaches to minimal cells (also called "protocells" or "chells" for chemical cells). In the former, a primordial or minimal cell is generated by systematically reducing a biological cell's genome until only essential genes remain. The bottom-up methodology, on the other hand, seeks to assemble from scratch components or information units until an aspect of life emerges. On the other hand, computational modelling for the top-down reduced biological cells and the bottom-up complexified protocells, aims at formalizing and operationalising life's processes. Along the way, by tackling modeling issues from both directions, computational endeavours might shed light on the limits of modelling and perhaps produce deeper insights not only for synthetic biology but also for systems biology. The Synthetic Biology Network for Modelling and Programming Cell- Chell Interactions (SynBioNT), funded in March 2008 by a grant from the BBSRC (with participation from EPSRC & ESRC), UK, invites participation in its sponsored symposium "Challenges in Top-Down, Bottom-Up and Computational Approaches in Synthetic Biology".

This symposium invites speakers and participants working in the following themes: (1) synthetic biology (top-down); (2) artificial chemical cells (chells, protocells, minimal cells) (bottom-up); (3) artificial computational cells and systems biology modelling; and (4) ethical, legal and social issues in synthetic biology. The three technical routes are necessary to systematically chart the possible paths to a successful and complete understanding of life, and its potential instrumentalisation towards fulfilling and securing societal needs.

During the symposium we also held a public engagement event at the Broadway Cinema.