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Programming languages for synthetic biological systems

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This talk is part of the 2013 Computational Biology Workshop

Cells are the building blocks of life. If we could program living cells as effectively as we program digital computers we could make breakthroughs in medical treatment, sustainable agriculture and clean energy, while also better understanding how living systems compute. In spite of this potential there are still many challenges to overcome. Programming cells is highly complex and error-prone, and we are at a point where powerful computer software could significantly accelerate further progress. This talk presents ongoing work to develop computer languages for programming cells at three levels: molecular circuits, genetic devices and cell colonies. We present a language for programming molecular circuits made of DNA , and for characterising genetic parts that can be combined into devices for programming cell function. Finally, we present software for simulating cell biofilms using 3D biophysical methods, which can be used to predict the effect of cell shape on colony morphology. Just as languages for programming digital computers heralded a new era of technology, languages for programming cells could enable new industries in biotechnology.

This talk is part of the Sainsbury Laboratory Seminars series.

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