An exciting new scientific frontier, synthetic biology, took center stage as Prof. Paul Freemont and his colleagues from Imperial College London, visited JKUAT Friday, February 26, 2016. Prof. Freemont met with the staff and students of Botany Department and discussed the societal impact of Synthetic Biology and opportunities for JKUAT researchers and students for collaboration under the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Foundation.
Synthetic biology is an emerging area of research that can be described broadly as the design and construction of innovative artificial pathways, organisms or devices which have application in health, agriculture, environment and energy.
According to Prof. Freemont, synthetic biology is a young, creative field that is growing rapidly and requires societal acceptance. “The limit of synthetic biology will not be technical but societal in that the application and utility will need to be proven and accepted,” explained Prof. Freemont.
The don said, a key difference between synthetic and standard biology is bringing engineering into biology. Synthetic biology, he explained, is an interdisciplinary field that engages biologists, mathematicians, physicists and engineers with enormous potential to harness the power of biology to provide scientific and engineering solutions to the challenges that confront humanity.
Being a new phenomenon, he acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges for synthetic biology is predictability. “It is still a challenge knowing that when you build a biosynthetic pathway it will behave how you expect.”
Prof. Freemont encouraged the students to register for iGEM for the advancement of synthetic biology and development of open community and collaboration. iGEM is an annual international student competition in synthetic biology, attracting teams from the world’s leading universities.
The Imperial College team was received by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Prof. Romanus Odhiambo, Principal, College of Pure and Applied Sciences, Prof. David Mulati and Chairman, Botany Department, Dr. Peter Mwangi.