Reconstituting Biology

29 June - 3 July 2020

Venue: Lorentz Center@Oort

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Recent advances have made the goals of bottom-up synthetic biology – culminating in the promise of a minimal cell – more tangible than ever. The excitement about the progress has led to the formation of large national research consortia, such as the Dutch Zwaartekracht programme BaSyC, MaxSynBio (a large German research consortium mainly within the Max Planck Society) and most recently a grant program dedicated to ‘Building a Synthetic Cell’ at the National Science Foundation in the US.

Some years into all these research endeavours, it has become clear that the goals set out by all these programmes remain highly ambitious, despite the progress that has been made and the scientific knowledge that has emerged. Therefore, this workshop aims to critically reflect on the achievements and to map future research directions and visions, en or even off-route to a synthetic cell. We will reflect on how we can better connect the growing bottom-up community, across different disciplines and continents. For this, we have invited participants and encourage applications from a diverse range of  research areas, including engineering and chemistry, as well as from both sides of the Atlantic and Asia. These are the questions we will focus on during the workshop and discuss in small groups:

Will we ever be able to reconstitute anything life-like? Is it worthwhile striving for, and what are the tangible and interesting goals en route? What are currently the main methodological limitations for reconstituting biological(ly inspired) systems from the bottom up? How can we overcome them? How can we set up a research community that is efficiently connected to share building blocks, techniques, and protocols? Bottom-up synthetic biology is inspired by Feynman’s quote “What I cannot create, I do not understand”. But do we truly understand what we created? If so, in which cases, and why/how do we understand it?

Our goal for the workshop is (1) to revisit existing and devise new concrete and realistic multidisciplinary research directions for the field of bottom-up synthetic biology, also beyond minimal cells, and (2) to connect the growing bottom-up synthetic biology communities world-wide.


    June 29

    Introduction; talks about recent developments; discussion of concrete goals for bottom-up synthetic biology en route to a minimal cell

    09:0010:00 Arrival, registration
    10:0010:45 Introduction to the workshop by the Lorentz Center and the organizers
    10:4511:30 Invited lecture: new directions for bottom-up synthetic biology I: reconstituting membrane processes (Patricia Bassereau, confirmed)
    11:3012:15 Invited lecture: new directions for bottom-up synthetic biology II: reconstituting evolving systems (Hannes Mutschler, confirmed)
    12:1514:00 Lunch
    14:0014:45 Invited lecture: new directions for bottom-up synthetic biology III: reconstituting cytoskeletal processes (Gijsje Koenderink and Marileen Dogterom, confirmed)
    14:4516:00 break out into 6 multidisciplinary, international groups.
    16:0016:30 Coffee break
    16:3016:40 Plenary discussion: What happens in the billion years between quenching and the end quiescent product by invited moderator
    16:4016:50 Group 1 summarizes discussion
    16:5017:00 Group 2 summarizes discussion
    17:0017:10 Group 3 summarizes discussion
    17:1017:20 Group 4 summarizes discussion
    17:2017:30 Group 5 summarizes discussion
    17:3017:40 Group 6 summarizes discussion
    17:4017:50 Summary of the day and final discussion
    17:5019:00 Wine and cheese party

    June 30

    Talk about methods; discussion of how to overcome bottlenecks; poster session to exchange current progress

    09:0009:45 Invited lecture: Methods for bottom-up synthetic biology (Allen Liu, confirmed)
    09:4512:00 break out into 6 different multidisciplinary groups
    12:0014:00 Coffee break
    14:0015:30 Poster session – participants are invited to share their current research focus
    15:3015:40 Group 1 presents
    15:4015:50 Group 2 presents
    15:5016:00 Group 3 presents
    16:0016:30 Coffee break
    16:3016:40 Group 4 presents
    16:4016:50 Group 5 presents
    16:5017:00 Group 6 presents
    17:0017:30 Summary of the day and final discussion

    July 1

    Talk about current platforms for knowledge exchange; discussion of how to connect the community better; group activity

    09:0009:45 Invited lecture: TBA
    09:4512:00 Break out into 4 multidisciplinary subgroups
    12:0014:00 Lunch
    14:0014:15 Group 1 presents and shares their thoughts
    14:1514:30 Group 2 presents and shares their thoughts
    14:3014:45 Group 3 presents and shares their thoughts
    14:4515:15 Coffee break
    15:1515:30 Group 4 presents and shares their thoughts
    15:3015:45 Group 5 presents and shares their thoughts
    15:4516:00 Group 6 presents and shares their thoughts
    16:0017:00 Summary of the day and final discussion of day 2 + 3
    17:0021:00 Group activity plus dinner

    July 2

    Philosophical discussion on knowledge generation in interdisciplinary research; discussion of how we can understand what we build

    09:0009:45 Invited lecture: “Epistemology for interdisciplinary research”
    09:4510:15 Discussion of lecture topic (plenum); designated and instructed discussion leader who will also give a very brief overview of the workshop’s discussions so far
    10:1510:45 Coffee Break
    10:4511:30 Invited lecture: future of in vitro reconstitution and minimal cells I (Petra Schwille, confirmed)
    11:3012:00 Discussion both lectures (plenum); designated and instructed discussion leader
    12:0014:00 Lunch @Snellius restaurant
    14:0015:00 Time for individual reflection on the discussions and composition of a summary of thoughts by each participant to be shared with the organisers for the perspective paper
    15:0015:45 Invited lecture: future of in vitro reconstitution and minimal cells II
    15:4516:15 Coffee break
    16:1517:00 Invited lecture: future of in vitro reconstitution and minimal cells III
    17:0017:30 Discussion of composition of perspective paper

    July 3

    Talks about in vitro reconstitution beyond creating a minimal cell; summary of discussions; discussion of the way to move forward beyond the workshop

    09:0010:30 Break out into 6 multidisciplinary subgroups to discuss question 3: (How) Do we understand what we create? Can we find examples? What role does theory play?
    10:3011:00 Coffee break
    11:0011:10 Group 1 presents and shares their thoughts
    11:1011:20 Group 2 presents and shares their thoughts
    11:2011:30 Group 3 presents and shares their thoughts
    11:3011:40 Group 4 presents and shares their thoughts
    11:4011:50 Group 5 presents and shares their thoughts
    11:5012:00 Group 6 presents and shares their thoughts
    12:0012:30 Summary and discussion of the results of the week with input from day 4, and of how to keep the momentum of the workshop
    12:3014:00 Lunch
    Please log in to view the participants information...

    Liedewij Laan, TU Delft  

    Allen Liu, University of Michigan  

    Kristina Ganzinger, AMOLF  

Aimée Reinards

+31 71 527 5581

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