Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Germany
Constructing a minimal functional machinery to initiate the autonomous self-division of a synthetic cell is one of the major goals of bottom-up synthetic biology. In order to reassemble such a division machinery in vitro, a strong focus has been on the E.coli divisome, with the MinCDE protein system guiding the assembly and positioning of a presumably contractile ring based on tubulin homologue FtsZ and its membrane adaptor FtsA. Recently, we demonstrated the full in vitro reconstitution of this machinery consisting of five proteins within lipid vesicles, allowing to observe the assembly of an isotropic filamentous FtsZ network, its condensation into a ring-like structure, along with pole-to-pole mode selection of Min oscillations resulting in equatorial positioning, and the onset of ring constriction, deforming the vesicles from spherical shape.
Radboud University, The Netherlands
How can we develop new technology in such a way that it benefit the whole society and not just a small group? That, in a nutshell, is the central question in the position paper of the Future Panel on Synthetic Life that forms the basis of my presentation.
As part of a large Dutch research project called Building a Synthetic Cell the Rathenau Institute and Radboud University supported a panel, consisting of fourteen experts who thought about society and synthetic cells. The aim of this so-called Future Panel was to draw up an initial provisional agenda for a political, social and scientific debate on the synthetic cell. To do this, the panel discussed the possible consequences that the synthetic cell could have for society and found that those future consequences will depend heavily on who shapes the science and technology. To ensure that not just a small powerful group will dominate the development of a synthetic cell, the panel emphasized involving a broad group of political and social actors early on in the development of the cell. By making it a joint venture, research could better address concerns and expectations in society. In my presentation, I will summarize the main discussion points and shared insights of the Future Panel, including fundamental challenges and dilemmas and resulting in four recommendations for responsible research and innovation with regard to the building of a synthetic cell.