Danish synthetic biology at the forefront in China – University of Copenhagen

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26 November 2012

Danish synthetic biology at the forefront in China

Synthetic biology is booming in China - and Danish researchers are taking part. Today when the prestigious conference Cold Spring Harbour Asia opens its doors for a week, focusing on frontline synthetic biology research, a strong team of researchers from UNIK Centre for Synthetic Biology at University of Copenhagen will be represented at the podium. 

Danish synthetic biology is world-class, and China already has its eye on Denmark when it comes to setting the agenda for future focus areas within synthetic biology. 

On the basis of an invitation from the Cold Spring Harbour committee to co-organize the conference, no less than 13 researchers and PhD students have come to China, to present the latest of the Danish research in synthetic biology.

"It is a very special honour, we have been given here. Synthetic biology is growing rapidly in China and this will influence the international development of the field in the coming years. Therefore, we are of course proud that China sees great potential in collaborating with us, "says Professor Birger Lindberg Møller, head of the Danish delegation. 

When Birger Lindberg Møller opens the conference as keynote speaker later today, he will talk about one of its pioneering projects: 'Light driven biosynthesis'. The idea is to develop plant cells, which - generated by sunlight - can produce many of the materials that we today receive from the polluting oil industry. This would be everything from enzymes and plastic to aromatic and medical compounds. 

The Importance of Innovation Centre Denmark
Innovation Centre Denmark in Shanghai has worked to facilitate the Danish element in the conference. It thereby builds upon the efforts of its sister-centre in Silicon Valley have done the past few years promoting the internationalization of Danish synthetic biology, And the Chinese communities are very interested in getting closer to the Danes: 

"When we have managed to create such a strong Danish presence at the conference, it is as a clear result of the international quality and weight of the research in and around the Centre for Synthetic Biology," says research attaché Lars Christensen, Innovation Centre Denmark, Shanghai. "Otherwise we would never have been able to gain influence to this extent." 

  With seven Danish presentations the conference is
  an excellent showcase for the Danish competencies
  in China.

  Additionally, the danish delegation will meet with
  Shanghai Institutes of Biological Sciences, one of
  the strongest research institutions within synthetic
  biology in China. 


The Danish talks at conference will e.g. cover:
- Light driven biosynthesis: A plant cell based system that uses sunlight as energy source to produce a wide range of complex substances that are currently supplied by the oil industry. In a plant the cells capture energy from the sun into its chloroplasts. In another part of the plant (the endoplasmatic reticulun), it produces the bio-active substances, it uses to defend itself against being eaten by humans and animals or attacked by insects and microbes. The pharmaceutical industry typically uses these substances as medicinal compounds. At the Centre for Synthetic Biology researchers have succeeded in linking the two systems and channeling the consumption of sun-energy directly to the synthesis of bio-active substances. This minimizes the waste of energy and makes production more efficient. The production takes place in contained systems similar to the well-known insulin production. The long-term goal is to create climate- and energy friendly cell factories that can replace the part of the oil industry, which today provides us with a wide range of substances around us – from enzymes and plastic to aromatic compounds and pharmaceuticals. 
- Luminescent DNA for early disease diagnosis: Many diseases, including cancer, can be traced in the form of micro-RNAs in the body long before traditional diagnostic tools pick up on them. Up to now the tools to detect these tracks have been slow and expensive. Researchers from the Centre for Synthetic Biology have invented a method using fluorescent DNA molecules to trace microRNA, enabling them to capture the tracks and discover diagnosis earlier and faster. The DNA sensors will be switched off when the fluorescent molecules connect with the microRNA, and in this way reveal whether a particular disease is developing in the body. 

Innovation Centre Denmark
Innovation Center Denmark aims to strengthen research, innovation and higher education in Denmark and to promote Denmark as a leading knowledge society. The Danish innovation centres assist you in getting access to knowledge, technology and networks in selected global leading research, education and innovation environments. Innovation Centre Denmark in Silicon Valley, Munich and Shanghai are established in cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Higher Education. 

Cold Spring Harbour Asia
Cold Spring Harbour is a well reputed conference series founded in the U.S. by Cold Spring Harbour Laboratoy already in 1933. The Chinese conference is a local chapter of Cold Spring Harbor, which was developed to encompas the rapid and significant Asian research development. See more here: http://www.csh-asia.org/overview.html