International conference « Medicine and environment. What kind of interdisciplinary collaborations for synthetic biology? »

This international conference will explore how synthetic biology, a rapidly emerging scientific field, is constructed as an interdisciplinary assemblage involving diverse fields such as molecular biology, engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics, sociology, computer science, etc. What roles are the scientific disciplines involved supposed to play? How is synthetic biology structured around interdisciplinary conceptions of research? What are the planned collaborations between the natural sciences and the social sciences? We aim to provide some answers to these questions by studying specific cases of projects (be they initiated by the government or the industry), which require different actors to re-elaborate their frames of interdisciplinary collaboration in two key areas for the future: medicine and environmental protection.

The idea is thus to address the issue of interdisciplinarity from a prospective approach. Based on the concrete problems that scientists want to solve, the aim is to highlight how objectives, constraints (economic, political or ethical), and new forms of organization for collaborations and for the transmission of knowledge are articulated. New prospects for the manufacturing of life are not just related to new technical possibilities, they also involve a reconfiguration of the social and institutional fabric of science and, in doing so, its conceptual and methodological frameworks. In the United Kingdom and the United States, for instance, a dedicated science policy aimed at structuring synthetic biology already manifests its effects. We can observe the establishment of research centres, often involving the social sciences, the creation of specialized masters and new jobs, a reflection on industrial applications, and the launch of public debates and a particular emphasis on ethical and legal questions via notions such as “responsible innovation”.

In France, recent reports from the National Strategy for Research and Innovation (2011) and the Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST, 2012) reveal the government’s willingness to fully engage in the field. Interdisciplinarity, according to the OPECST is “necessary” and a “genuine requirement” and synthetic biology “therefore requires a new approach to training but also to the organization of the research itself and, finally, industrial organization.” It is within these contexts of transformation, both epistemic and institutional, that we want to initiate a collective reflection among researchers from diverse backgrounds.

Organisers : Morgan Meyer (Agro ParisTech), Ludovic Jullien (ENS, UPMC)

Dates: 23-24 June 2014

Location: Amphi Tisserand, AgroParisTech; 16, rue Claude Bernard, 75005, Paris.

Registration is compulsory but free. For more information, please contact: Fabien Provost (

Final program

23th June 2014

8 :30-9 :00 : Reception of the attendees

9 :00-9 :15 : Introduction by the organizers : Ludovic Jullien, Morgan Meyer

Scientific practice           

9 :15-10 :00 : Romain Koszul, Institut Pasteur

Optimizing yeast chromosomes for basic and applied experimentations

10 :00-10 :45 : Philippe Seksik, UPMC

The ecological scale : the gut microbiota experience

10 :45-11 :15 : Coffee-Break

11 :15-12 :00 : Damien Baigl, ENS, UPMC

The triggerable and programmable softness of synthetic biological systems

12 :00-12 :45 : Thomas Heams, Agro ParisTech

Directed evolution in synthetic biology: a new black box in the realm of rational design?

12 :45-14:15 : Lunch

Educational aspects

14 :15-15 :00 : Dominique Zeliszewski, Université d’Evry-Val-d’Essonne, Genopole

Insights into some interdisciplinary educational approaches in synthetic biology

15:00-15:45: Denis Thieffry, ENS, France

Interdisciplinary training in Life Science at ENS

15 :45-16 :30 : Dirk Stemerding, Rathenau Instituut

iGEM synthetic biology student competition as a laboratory for responsible innovation

16 :00-16 :30 : Coffee Break

Industry and applications

16 :30-17 :15 : Frédéric Pâques, Global BioEnergies

Direct fermentation for Isobutene, Butadiene and Propylene production: a highway to renewable plastics, synthetic rubber and fuels

17:15-18:00: Michel Manach, Toulouse White Biotechnology

Toulouse White Biotechnology: a unique interface between academic research and industrial implementation

19 :30 : Diner with the speakers and the organizers

24th June 2014

Relations between science and society

 9 :15-10 :00 : Anthony Stavrianakis, EHESS

Science & Fabrications: On synthetic biology

10 :00-10 :45 : Emma Frow, University of Edinburgh

Disciplining the social sciences in synthetic biology

10 :45-11 :15 : Coffee-Break

11 :15-12 :00 : Susan Molyneux-Hodgson, University of Sheffield

Developing synthetic biology applications for industry: a sociological analysis

12 :00-12 :45 : Ana Nordberg, University of Copenhagen

Legal challenges of synthetic biology: integrating interdisciplinary elements in legal thinking


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