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3rd Regional Synthetic Biology Forum: Infectious diseases and Micro RNA’s

13th Sep 2013


The ACGT recently joined forces with the Mhlanga lab (CSIR) to host the 3rd Regional Synthetic Biology Forum. The event took place on the 13th of September 2013 at the CSIR Knowledge commons in Pretoria. Inqaba Biotec graciously sponsored the event.

The theme this year was “Infectious Diseases and Micro RNA’s”. Dr Rachel Chikwamba (CSIR Executive) welcomed delegates and strongly emphasized the need to create critical mass in this emerging research field. Moreover, she highlighted the impact of harnessing the new disciplines and technologies in addressing problems relating to health on the African continent.

University of Georgia’s Prof Mark S Tompkins delivered the key note address which focused on regulation of host responses to influenza virus infection. Prof Marco Weinberg (Wits/Scripps Research Institute) enlightened the audience on harnessing the miRNA biogenesis pathway for novel therapeutics. Emerging researchers, Dr Janine Scholefield (CSIR) and Mr Jerolen Naidoo (CSIR), presented equally insightful talks on cellular engineering for modelling infectious diseases and high content microscopy based-screens which revealed miRNA’s which suppress HIV-1 infection, respectively. Other speakers on the day included Dr Musa Mhlanga (CSIR) and Dr Alex Sigal (K-RITH). The day was concluded with a panel discussion on the controversy, ethics and public acceptance of Synthetic Biology.

The forum certainly delivered in its promise to showcase novel, innovative research and the future applications of Synthetic Biology. Discussions are currently underway to ascertain how best the synergies and complementary expertise in this field can best be exploited.



13th Sep 2013