Gordon Research Conferences
Conference Details

Synthetic Biology
Gordon Research Conference

Conference Information



Initial Year





Meeting Cycle

24 Months

Conference Description

"Synthetic biology" is an emerging field that is very rapidly gaining currency within the scientific community and society at large. Although in itself not an entirely new concept and having been referred in literature for the first time as early as 1912, the advancements in molecular biology, high-throughput "omics" analysis and on computer and engineering sciences, only now begin to enable a serious, systematic approach to the development and forward engineering of biological circuits and cellular capabilities that may be ultimately translated into processes or products. The core of this concept is that, by drawing on knowledge developed in biology, chemistry, robotics and adapting engineering design and production principles stemming from Information Technologies, it is possible now to set off the creation of artificial (i.e. "synthetic") and hybrid systems using biological engineering design principles with unprecedented power and efficiency.

The pursuit of synthetic biology is both the design and fabrication of biological components and systems that do not exist in the natural world as well as the re-design and fabrication of already existing biological systems. Eventually, it is envisioned to build up from scratch - bottom-up approaches - cellular components, compartments and even cells to create living devices and use them either as molecular-scale factories, to detect chemical weapons, clean up pollutants, make simple computations, diagnose disease, deliver vaccines, produce water for water or sunlight, or to create new, hybrid materials. Other on-going efforts - top-down approaches - with ultimately the very same goals focus on simplifying and genetically reprogramming existing cells with simple genomes.

This vision has thus tremendous scientific, technological and economical impacts. However, regardless of a number of recent advances in this regard of the extraordinary possibilities, Synthetic Biology is as yet in its infancy, with knowledge being is highly scattered and scarce, and facing many serious scientific, technological and societal challenges ahead. Owing to its very potential and novelty, and due to uncertainties related to ownership, biosafety, biosecurity and public perception raise ethical and governance issues that warrant dialogue and societal embedding.

This GRC will establish a regular, in-depth discussion forum among practitioners of the various fields underlying Synthetic Biology which is pivotal to pin-point the challenges, realistically assess the potential and pitfalls and to lay the basis for future developments and consolidation of the field towards fulfilling the envisaged - and ambitious - goals. The purpose of this conference is thus to set a basis for such a forum. The model of Gordon Research Conferences, providing forums for the presentation and discussion of frontier, multidisciplinary research, is ideal. Because of the lack of a common language among the scientists from so many different fields, longer meetings with large blocks of time dedicated to discussions, rather than series of presentations held at 'traditional' conferences, are favored for establishing such a forum.

What is a GRC? Gordon Research Conferences (GRC) are 5-day meetings that bring scientists together from around the world to present and discuss unpublished research with other leaders in their field.

Related Conference

This Gordon Research Conference (GRC) series is related to the "Synthetic Biology" Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) series. Although a related GRS will typically be scheduled in conjunction with its parent GRC each time it meets, that may not always be the case. Refer to the individual meetings in the Meeting History section below for more details. For more information about the associated Gordon Research Seminar (GRS) series, click here.

What is a GRS? Gordon Research Seminars (GRS) are 2-day meetings that bring graduate students and post-docs together to discuss their cutting edge research among peers and mentors. Each GRS immediately precedes an associated Gordon Research Conference (GRC), and topics addressed at the GRS relate closely to the GRC.

Meeting History

YearMeeting NameDatesConference SiteChair(s)
2017 Synthetic Biology
Biology by Design
Jul 30 - Aug 4 Stoweflake Conference Center Farren Isaacs
2015 Synthetic Biology
Advancing Biosystems Design
Jun 28 - Jul 3 Grand Summit Hotel at Sunday River Sven Panke
2013 Synthetic Biology
(Re-)Constructing and Re-Programming Life
Jun 9-14 Mount Snow Vitor V. Martins Dos Santos
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