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Danish synthetic biology at the forefront in China 

26.11.2012  03:44

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. 

Birger Lindberg Møller is the Research Director of the Center for Synthetic Biology, University of Copenhagen. The centre is founded on the basis of a UNIK grant of 120 million DKK by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education in 2009, and was recently estimated to have the potential to become a world leader by an international evaluation panel. 

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. 


For more information contact:

Professor Birger Lindberg Møller, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Center for Synthetic Biology, University of Copenhagen: / +45 20 43 34 11
 Research Attaché Lars Christensen, Innovation Center Denmark, Shanghai - / + 86 139 169 886 21



Synthetic biology Synthetic biology is about understanding, imitating and combining nature's building blocks in new ways. The discipline exists between and connects a number of classic disciplines of natural sciences such as neurobiology, plant biochemistry, molecular biology, biophysics, and nanoscience as well as humanities.

Synthetic biology has the potential to uncover new technological possibilities of great importance for the future of bio-based society by creating knowledge and develop tools and methods to produce and characterize new bio-inspired systems with desired properties. This applies for example within energy, medicine, environment and food. 


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. 


About Innovation Centre Denmark

Innovation Centre 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. 


About the conference

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.

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