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Engineering Biology in Cambridge


The EngBio Forums feature prominent external speakers and excellent networking opportunities - a great opportunity to learn more about cutting edge synthetic and engineering biology. Registration is now open!

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The Engineering Biology Forums are a series of talks exploring key tools for the future of engineering biology and biotechnology. Hosted by the Engineering Biology Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, the forums will take place termly at the Old Divinity School, St Johns College, Cambridge. Keynote lectures and discussion session will be followed by food, drinks and a mini fair including demonstrations, exhibitions and information showcasing scientific excellence from around the Cambridge engineering biology community

 If you would like to suggest a speaker or theme for a future EngBio Forum please contact

Thursday 4 May 2023: Designing the Next Generation of Bioengineered Tools for Health & Wellbeing

Registration opens in March LINK on EVENTBRITE

Thursday 4 May 2023

Designing the Next Generation of Bioengineered Tools for Health and Wellbeing


Keynote Speakers


Prof. Randall Platt (Live Speaker)






Talk Title: Harnessing the CRISPR toolbox to engineer biology

Description: Molecular technologies enabling the high throughput interrogation of genetic elements fuels our capacity to understand and control complex biological systems. With current methodologies used in the field of biomedicine the rate at which genes are being associated with biological and disease processes has drastically outstripped the pace at which their causality can be tested and understood. There is also a treasure trove of biological information that is lost or hidden from us when using conventional snapshot experiments. In this lecture you will hear about how we are harnessing the CRISPR toolbox to engineer biology and overcome these challenges, specifically through developing tools and methods for in vivo CRISPR screens and engineered cells that record their own gene expression.

Bio: Randall J. Platt is an Associate Professor of Biological Engineering at the ETH Zurich; Associate Professor at the University of Basel; Botnar Research Center for Child Health Investigator; and NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering Investigator. His aim is to develop genetic perturbation and cellular programming technologies for diagnostics and therapeutics primarily in the areas of brain science and gut microbiome.

Randy’s major research interests include biological engineering, synthetic biology, functional genomics, and molecular medicine. His core research themes include engineering microbial cells to record and manipulate intestinal physiology and the gut microbiota (Schmidt, Nature, 2018; Schmidt, Science, 2022); the development of new gene editing methods with a particular focus on in vivo and multiplexing applications (Platt, Cell, 2014; Platt, Cell Reports, 2017; Campa, Nature Methods, 2019); and high throughput forward genetic screening in vivo in animal models to identify disease drivers, diagnostic biomarkers, drug targets, and delivery vectors (Chow, Nature Neuroscience, 2017; Wang, Science Advances, 2018).

Randy’s research accomplishments have earned numerous distinctions, including the MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35, Eppendorf Award for Young European Investigators, Stanisław Lem European Research Prize, EMBO Young Investigator, ETH Zurich Latsis Prize, Nature Research Award for Driving Global Impact, National Science Foundation Fellowship, Whitaker International Fellowship, and Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research Scholar in Residence. He is an inventor on 100+ patents and patents pending and a co-​founder of a biotechnology company in the area of engineered microbes and gastrointestinal therapeutics.



Dr Kiran Raosaheb Patil (Live Speaker)

Director of Research, MRC Toxicology Unit



Talk title: Engineering Biology without Genetic Engineering

Short description: Synthetic biology is opening new avenues to tackle emerging biotechnological and environmental challenges. While genetic engineering tools have enabled novel phenotypes, complexity of biological systems often limits applications to a few organisms and poses challenges such as collateral damage and stability. In this talk, I will discuss a complementary approach – precision evolution – towards engineering complex biological systems without explicit knowledge on genotype-phenotype relations.

Short Bio: Kiran studied Chemical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai, India). Following his PhD in Systems Biology at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Kiran was appointed as Assistant Professor at DTU where he worked on transcriptional regulation and metabolic engineering. In 2010, Kiran was appointed Group Leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Heidelberg, Germany). He joined the MRC Toxicology Unit (University of Cambridge) as Director of Research in 2019. His lab develops tools and model systems to decipher and modulate complex microbial interactions.




Tuesday 31st January 2023: Super-Resolution Microscopy

Thursday 31st January 2023, 5pm-8.30pm

Venue: Old Divinity School, St John’s College

Super-Resolution Microscopy:

Impact of machine learning and artificial intelligence on data analysis and predictive modelling in biology


Keynote Speakers

Prof. Stefan Hell (Zoom Speaker)

Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2014

Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany

Title: MINFLUX nanoscopy and related matters

I will show how an in-depth description of the basic principles of diffraction-unlimited fluorescence microscopy (nanoscopy) [1-3] has spawned a new powerful superresolution concept, namely MINFLUX nanoscopy [4]. MINFLUX utilizes a local excitation intensity minimum (of a doughnut or a standing wave) that is targeted like a probe in order to localize the fluorescent molecule to be registered. In combination with single-molecule switching for sequential registration, MINFLUX [4-7] has obtained the ultimate (super)resolution: the size of a molecule. MINFLUX nanoscopy, providing 1–3 nanometer resolution in fixed and living cells, is presently being established for routine fluorescence imaging at the highest, molecular-size resolution levels. Relying on fewer detected photons than popular camera-based localization, MINFLUX and related MINSTED [8,9] nanoscopies are poised to open a new chapter in the imaging of protein complexes and distributions in fixed and living cells. MINFLUX is also set to transform the single-molecule analysis of dynamic processes, as already demonstrated by tracking in detail the unhindered stepping of the motor protein kinesin-1 on microtubules at up to physiological ATP concentrations [10], and providing answers to longstanding questions with respect to the kinesin-1 mechanochemical cycle.


Prof. Ricardo Henriques (Live Speaker)

Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal

Title: Open-technology for Super-Resolution and Machine-Learning enabled Live-Cell BioImaging

Computational analysis has become an essential part of microscopy, enabling and enhancing quantitative imaging approaches. Several cutting-edge microscopy methods now depend on an analytical step to process large volumes of recorded data, extract analytical information, and produce a final rendered image. Single-molecule localization-based super-resolution microscopy is a notorious example. In recent years, our team and collaborators have built an open-source ecosystem of combined computational and optical approaches particularly dedicated to improving live-cell microscopy, super-resolution imaging, and helping researchers retrieve high-fidelity quantitative data from their images. This talk will present some of the recent technologies we have recently developed. First, I will introduce ZeroCostDL4Mic, an entry-level platform simplifying the application of Deep-Learning (DL) analysis to biological microscopy images, by exploiting free openly-accessible cloud-based computational resources. ZeroCostDL4Mic allows researchers with no coding expertise to train and apply key DL tasks to perform segmentation, object detection, denoising, super-resolution microscopy, and microscopy modality image-to-image translation. We'll demonstrate the application of the platform to study multiple biological processes, including in eucaryotic and procaryotic cells, and to analyze SMLM data. Next, I will cover recent development we have created for super-resolution microscopy through the NanoJ platform, highlighting the new "enhanced Super-Resolution Radial Fluctuations" (eSRRF) approach and its combination with real-time controlled microfluidics live-to-fix cell imaging, dubbed NanoJ-Fluidics, as well as real-time quality control on the predicted superresolution images via the SQUIRREL.  


Exhibitors & Demonstrators







Thursday 10th November 2022: Reprogramming Biology

DNA-based recoding of metabolism or growth to systematically reprogram natural systems

Prof. Jim Collins

Synthetic Biology: Making Biology Programmable

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

Prof. Jennifer Brophy

Synthetic genetic circuits to modify plant growth

Stanford Bioengineering, USA

Register Here

Thursday 3rd November 2022: Computing for Biology

Impact of machine learning and artificial intelligence on data analysis and predictive modelling in biology

Prof. David Baker

Protein design using deep learning

University of Washington, USA

Dr. Bianca Dumitrascu

Explainable machine learning for single cell biology

Department of Computer Science and Technology, University of Cambridge, UK

Register Here

Thursday 27th October 2022: Microscopy at the Cutting Edge

Novel techniques for optical microscopy and image processing with insights into biological systems

Dr. Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz

Emerging imaging technologies to study cell architecture, dynamics, and function

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm, USA

Dr. Buzz Baum

Imaging hell: archaeal cell division

MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK

Register Here

Past Events

  • 30 Nov 2015: Taking Modularity to the Genomic Level featuring Tom Ellis (Imperial College) and Mark Isalan (Imperial College)
  • 18 Oct 2016: Sculpting Evolution - Engineering Biology to Adress Global Disease Challenges featuring Dr. Kevin Esvelt (MIT Media Lab) and Prof Luke Alphey (Pirbright Institute, founder of Oxitec Ltd)
  • 19 Oct 2016: Programmable Biology in the Test Tube featuring Dr Vincent Noireaux (University of Minnesota), Dr Nick Rollins (Cambridge Consultants) and Dr Fernan Federici (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and University of Cambridge)
  • 6 Nov 2016: Synthetic Biology for Regenerative Medicine featuring Professor Ron Weiss (MIT)
  • 16 Mar 2017: Programmable Cell Extracts - A New Biomanufacturing Paradigm featuring Dr. Keith Pardee (University of Toronto) and Dr. Richard Kelwick (Imperial College) 
  • 24 Apr 2018: Harnessing Genetic Regulation to Redesign Organisms featuring Prof Chris Voigt (MIT) and Dr Somenath Bakshi (Harvard University)
  • 29 Oct 2018: Engineering Complex Systems in Biology featuring representatives from Mathworks, Microsoft Research, and Nvidia and Sabine Hauert (University of Bristol) and Ricard Sole (University of Pompeu Fabra and head of Complex Systems Lab)
  • 12 Feb 2019: Genetics, Vision & Machine Learning in Biological Systems featuring Dr Ricardo Henriques (UCL) and Dr Brenda Andrews (University of Toronto)
  • 14 May 2019: Engineering Biology featuring Prof Andrew Ellington (University of Texas at Austin) and Prof Michael Jewett (Northwestern University) 
  • 6 Nov 2019: Open Technologies Festival and Biomaker Fayre, Murray Edwards College.
  • 24 Feb 2020: New Sensors for Living Systems featuring Prof. George Malliaras (University of Cambridge) and Dr Karen Polizzi (Imperial College London)

Photos of past forums can be found on our Flickr.

Upcoming Events

There are no upcoming events.