ACGT, WITS and UP’s 2016 iGem team host Synthetic Biology Workshop and Symposium

In early September, the ACGT teamed up with WITS and UP’s 2016 iGem team to sponsor and host a 2-day informative workshop and symposium on Synthetic Biology. Synthetic biology is a multidisciplinary field of science that involves the design and construction of novel artificial biomolecular components, pathways or networks in organisms or the redesign of existing natural biological systems. Although still in its infancy, Synthetic biology is rapidly expanding and has shown huge potential and benefit  in a diverse number of applications, including the development of cheaper drugs, the treatment of  antibiotic resistant infections, genetic disorders, therapies to treat diseases such as  cancer, biofuel production.

The 2-day event was well attended and included participants from the CSIR, ARC, UP, WITS and the Department of Environmental Affairs. The workshop was interactive and delegates had the opportunity to hear about and discuss some of activities and approaches in the field that are currently being explored in South America, UK and South Africa. On the first day, a workshop was facilitated by Dr. Fernán Federici, assistant professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. Dr. Federici introduced open source technologies for science, education and bioengineering as well as started open discussions about how to implement new collaborative frameworks in Africa and Latin America. Dr. Geoffrey Baldwin, a Reader in Biochemistry in the Department of Life Sciences and Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation (CSynBI) at Imperial College London, also presented on his work on the BASIC method for standard DNA assembly approaches.

On the second day, delegates were treated to a keynote address by Dr. Baldwin titled:  “Engineering Biology in the Genomic Age: the Synthetic Biology Revolution”  as well a presentation  by the 2016 UP iGEM team on their WattsAptamer project, where they described the design of “Synthetic laccases and DNA aptamers for thylakoid tethering in photo-electrochemical cells”.

These two events provided an informative platform for an exchange of ideas and interdisciplinary discussions as well as the potential for new collaborations.  The ACGT is committed to supporting and hosting events that benefit Biotechnology and the Bioscience Community, particularly our partners, so for more information on upcoming workshops, symposia and bioinformatics training events, visit the events page on the ACGT website (, like us on Facebook ( or contact Farhahna Allie at

* Thank you to Whitehead Scientific for sponsorship towards these events

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