IIT Madras Hosts International Symposium on ‘Synthetic Biology’

Chennai: Indian Institute of Technology Madras is hosting the India-EMBO Symposium on ‘Engineering meets evolution: Designing biological systems’ from 30th January to 1st February 2020. The event brought together leading scientists, researchers, and first-stage research scholars to discuss the advances and latest research findings in the field of ‘Synthetic Biology’ and ‘Bioengineering’.

It is jointly organised by Initiative for Biological Systems Engineering (IBSE), IIT Madras, and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO).

The aim of the India-EMBO symposium is to provide a platform to the research community for exchanging ideas, discussing challenges encountered and sharing research experiences. It focused on various aspects of bioengineering and synthetic biology, such as:

Ø Utilisation of biological systems to create the desired effect

Ø Understanding the metabolism to engineer the cell

Ø The potential applications of engineering the genetic material

Ø Research queries on synthetic microbial communities

Ø Putting these above-mentioned concepts together in real-life applications

The India-EMBO symposium will help to identify the research opportunities and priorities in bioengineering and synthetic biology. The perspective of speakers over the three days from different sectors will explain the possible future scope in this field and provide information about the funding availability and ethical considerations to ensure that the research on synthetic biology will be carried out responsibly to realise its full potential.

Prof. Mahesh Panchagnula, Dean (International and Alumni Relations), IIT Madras, emphasised the role of international collaborations in setting up a strong synthetic biology programme at IIT Madras. He said, “We are indeed happy that EMBO is supporting an international symposium on synthetic biology at IIT Madras. Life science research is at an inflection point promising exciting bedside outcome improvement. Events such as this help synergistically accelerate towards that greater goal”.

The interaction sessions between the research scholars and the leading scientists will benefit in promoting collaborations, analysing the bottlenecks in the research fields, and the possible innovative solutions to overcome the challenges. On a concluding note, this symposium will be a potential platform that elicits confidence among research scholars to establish their career in synthetic biology.

Delivering the Keynote address on ‘Thinking big: engineering SynBio interventions on a global scale,’ Dr. Victor de Lorenzo, Group Leader, Molecular Environmental Microbiology Laboratory, National Centre for Biotechnology (CNB), Spain, said, “The environmental microbiome once improved and reprogrammed with the tools of synthetic biology, can become our main ally to fight climate change”

EMBO is an organisation that comprises 1,800 active leading researchers who support excellence in life sciences. The primary goals of EMBO are to endorse talented researchers, aid in building a better research environment, and promote the exchange of scientific ideas and information. Several contributions through short courses, workshops, conferences, and press publications support EMBO to maintain high standards of excellence in research practice.

IIT Madras has been designated as one of the premier centres for basic and applied research, technical education, and industrial collaborations in India.

Speaking about the importance of this Symposium, Dr. Karthik Raman, Co-ordinator, Initiative for Biological Systems Engineering (IBSE), IIT Madras, and Organiser of this Symposium said, “Nature and the microbial world seem to have solutions for a lot of problems we face today, from bacteria that can fix carbon dioxide or break down PET, which can be leveraged by the emerging field of synthetic biology.”

Adding on, Dr. Himanshu Sinha, Co-ordinator, Initiative for Biological Systems Engineering (IBSE), IIT Madras, and Organiser of this Symposium thanked EMBO, (European Molecular Biology Organisation) and India Alliance for funding this Symposium and thus, providing a fillip to synthetic biology research in India. The Symposium has a dedicated discussion session on the future of synthetic biology in healthcare and agriculture in India and the rest of the world.

The internationally recognised faculties, talented students pool, and intensive research contributes to achieving the pre-eminent status of IIT Madras. IIT Madras houses 16 departments and a few advanced research centres in various disciplines.

IBSE is an interdisciplinary group which works on developing innovative methodologies to integrate multi-omics data to understand, predict, and manipulate complex biological systems. The research undertaken at IBSE includes the study of gene-gene and gene-host interactions in order to unravel the genotype to phenotype map that facilitates adaptation in yeast and the study of design principles for building synthetic biological parts. The students at IITM have been active participants at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, which is a premier competition for building synthetic biological parts.