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Synthetic biology is one of the great promises of the medicine of the future: adapting the genetic information of living beings will enable us to find possible solutions for currently incurable diseases. With this aim, on June 13 and 14 CosmoCaixa Barcelona will be holding “Synthetic biology. Engineering life for the medicine of the future”, a meeting with leading international experts in synthetic biology, an event organized by B·Debate, an initiative of Biocat and “la Caixa”, this time jointly with the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF).

The event will bring together specialists from highly diverse disciplines such as biology, engineering, physics and mathematics, all of them converging in synthetic biology. Some of the speakers at this edition of B·Debate are currently working on clinical trials that are testing new treatments to treat hitherto incurable diseases. One of these investigators is Maria Lluch Senar, co-leader of this edition of B·Debate, who works at the CRG, where she engages in gene-editing bacteria in order to ultimately find new human therapies to treat a type of atypical pneumonia caused by a bacterium, namely mycoplasma pneumonia (MP).

Another speaker is Manel Juan Otero, head of the Immunology Section of the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, who is leading a clinical trial with patients to treat cancer. The trial’s objective is to modify the individual’s immune system so that the patient’s own defenses will attack the tumor. In this regard, immunotherapy is one of the great hopes for the treatment of oncological diseases.


Beyond the genetic editing

This year, B·Debate will focus on achieving a better understanding of human biology and the medical applications of these genetic technologies, although synthetic biology is also opening up new paths and providing breakthroughs in other fields such as sustainable energy, food production and biomaterials. For example, this discipline is investigating things ecological, such as how to improve the fertility of arable land.

Technology can also be used to create artificial life from scratch. Scientists have already managed to create artificial viruses and bacteria. This discipline borders on science fiction, and poses ethical and moral issues that go beyond the realms of science that will need to be addressed by philosophy. For example: can we modify the genome to prevent diseases? Do we have the right to create artificial life from scratch? These are but some of the questions that the experts participating in this latest B·Debate will attempt to answer.

The scientists participating in this edition include Marc Güell, researcher at the UPF where he focuses on the genetic editing of mammals; Maria Lluch Senar, researcher at the CRG on genetic editing to find new human therapies; Matthew Porteus, professor at the Stanford School of Medicine (USA); and Julia Oh, researcher at the Jackson Laboratory (USA).

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