Decoding and recoding biological systems

The past few years have seen unprecedented advances in DNA sequencing and synthesis technologies. These technologies, in combination with sophisticated new methods of analysis, have opened up unprecedented opportunities to recode organisms to produce new bio-products which may support advances in medicine, agriculture or industrial processes.
A research workshop titled ‘Decoding and Recoding Biological Systems’ brought together scientists working across interdisciplinary interfaces spanning genomics, computational and synthetic biology and chemistry, providing a forum for enhanced interactions and collaborative research opportunities. There were presentations from speakers from across the Norwich Research Park as well as three invited external speakers, Dr Marnix Medema (University of Wageningen), Professor Jim Haseloff (University of Cambridge) and Dr Quentin Dudley (Jewett lab, Northwestern University).

Prof Neil Hall, the Director of the Earlham Institute (EI), kicked off the proceedings with an overview of the current state of play regarding genome sequencing technologies. Marnix Medema outlined computational approaches for natural product pathway discovery in microbes and plants. Andy Truman from the John Innes Centre (JIC) followed with an example of recoding of bacterial genes for the synthesis of the antibiotic bottromycin. Ray Dixon from the John Innes Centre presented work on modular approaches that he is taking to engineer nitrogen fixation in plants.

Amit Sachdeva from the School of Chemistry at the University of East Anglia (UEA) reported on how he is expanding the genetic code to enable the incorporation of non-native amino acids into proteins in order to modulate protein activity. The afternoon session focussed on research from Nicola Patron (EI), George Lommonossoff (JIC) and Jim Haseloff (University of Cambridge), who are all bioengineering plants in different ways (for food security, production of therapeutic proteins and vaccines, and for the development of model systems for fundamental research and training). The day ended with a lecture by Quentin Dudley (Jewett lab, Northwestern University, US) on using in vitro cell-free technology to produce plant natural products in a test tube.

Congratulations to Thomas Bridge (UEA), Anastasia Orme (JIC) and Roger Castell-Graells (JIC) who won prizes in the best science poster competition (1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively)

The Decoding and Recoding Biological Systems’ workshop was organised by Professor Anne Osbourn (JIC), Director of the Norwich Research Park Industrial Biotechnology Alliance. It was held in the Earlham Institute on Friday 19th May 2017.

Scientists discuss progress in decoding and recoding biological systems at the poster session


Earlham institute
Quadram Institute Bioscience
John Innes Centre
The Sainsbury Laboratory
NHS NNUH
University of East Anglia

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