22 January 2013

RADIO: Synbio Interview in P1 - Danish National Radio

A news program on Danish National Radio invited Head of Center for Synthetic Biology Birger Lindberg Møller in to explain how Danish researchers work with synthetic biology.  

In the news program "P1 Morgen" (P1 Morning) on Danish National Radio's main channel, P1, Birger Lindberg Møller explained why synthetic biology is a key technology in the move towards a more sustainable, biobased society:

"(...) If we move the plants' ability to form desirable compounds useful for e.g. cancer treatment from one part of the plant cell to the chloroplasts, where they produce a great amount of energy by the use of light and photosynthesis, we can make the plants produce much more of these desired compounds, which we need." 

Later in the interview, he predicted what the next big thing within synthetic biology will be: 

"(...) a breakthrough in Finland showed that it is possible to convert biomass to long-chain alkanes, ie. the type of materials we use as jet fuel. We have worked with producing aromatic compounds from vanilla, e.g. the most important compound vanillin,   which is now possible to produce in yeast." 

The radio program came about due to another news story in Danish newspaper Berlingske, in which an American researcher stated that he now believes it technically possible to perform de-extinction of extinct species based on their ancient DNA. Professor Møller strongly emphasized that these experiments are not within the scope of the synthetic biology research at University of Copenhagen: 

"We are not attempting to create artificial life. All the organisms we work with are growing in closed systems, exactly as Novozymes is currently producing enzymes in closed systems. That is where I draw the ethical line, and this is also the opinion of other Danish scientists working with synthetic biology - at least at University of Copenhagen". 

The program can be heard here (in Danish):