The Wellcome Collection is an art venue which explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. It is located in London, and has recently been running an exhibition titled – “Brains : the mind as matter”.
‘Brains’ asks not what brains do to us, but what we have done to brains, focusing on the bodily presence of the organ rather than investigating the neuroscience of the mind.
Right now a symposium titled “Synthetic Biology for the Next Generation” is being run jointly by The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering – in New York City. Participants in this conference will examine the tools, platforms, and infrastructure needed for continued advances in synthetic biology; political and social strategies to pursue these advances; and research applications in key areas.
You can watch the live stream of the symposium right now here. (EDIT: the conference is now over but the videos are available from where the stream was). You can also follow the symposium via the twitter hashtag #synbioLEAP. The symposium will progress throughout today and tomorrow (June 12/13) and is the last of a three part series of symposiums. This conference takes a very realist, applied and advanced approach to the issues of synthetic biology.
A biochip is an invention by Stephen Quake which uses microfluids to vastly improves the ability of biologists to do research. By automating and streamlining otherwise tedious tasks, biochips speed up tasks and save valuable human time. They also, in doing so, allow previously unfeasible experiments to be done – broadening the reach of science. Stephen Quake’s group isn’t the only one working on chips like these, but he did just win the Lemelson-MIT prize (the “oscar for inventors”) for his work. This sort of technology will contribute significantly to the progress of the genetic revolution, rapidly speeding up the work of biologists everywhere. Singularity Hub ran an article on Stephen Quakes work here. Also check out his TEDxCaltech talk on his work from 2011 after the break.
“Creating Synthetic Life” is a documentary which premiered on the Science Channel in 2010. It follows the story of Craig Venter and his team in creating Synthia (or Mycoplasma laboratorium), an organism which has been declared by some to be “the first synthetic organism”. The documentary has a few flaws, something not unexpected given its very general target audience. Nonetheless it has a very high production quality and is definitely worth watching. You can purchase the DVD of the program here, or you can watch a version which has been uploaded to youtube below.
While anti-GM crop destruction may have been stopped at Rothamsted only a week ago, yet another project has come under threat. Dr. Eddo Rugini has spent the last 30 years working on woody plant propagation in Italy, specifically looking at transgenic olive trees, cherry trees, and kiwifruit vines. He gained permission to grow the plants in 1998 with strict protocols to prevent gene flow from the plants. However in 2002 Italy passed a law banning field research on genetically engineered plants. Dr. Rugini was granted an extension until 2008, but no longer and has now been called to destroy the plants himself. You can find out more information on this issue in a well written article by Anastasia Bodnar of Biofortified.
Thirty years of work will be destroyed tomorrow, by Dr. Rugini himself (under court order), a true tragedy for science. While it may be too late to effectively stop this, a petition has nonetheless been formed to protest the destruction. You can sign the petition here, or see the signatures of others here. I have included some of the moving words of those who have signed the petition after the break.