Standards in the BioTech Industry: an evening by the sea

“BIOROBOOST: fostering synthetic biology standardization through international collaboration” is a European project coordinated by the Universitat de València and whose objective has been to promote discussion and obtain conclusions on the state of the art of standards in synthetic biology through international collaboration.

On Thursday September 16th 2021, in the Veles e Vents building of Valencia, a big event took place that included representatives of the national and international biotechnology industry, as well as authorities representing the University of Valencia, the Valencia City Council and the Generalitat Valenciana. This event marked the completion of the BioRoboost project, which has been funded through the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program with € 2M.

Standards are everywhere in our modern civilization. Examples of standards are, for example, nuts and bolts. But also the parts that our cars are made of or the operating systems that make our computers and mobile phones work. Standards work because they are robust, reliable, universal, and of course they work as expected, so they have predictable behavior. But this is engineering. And what about biotechnology? Biotechnology is defined as the discipline of engineering biological functionalities driven by applications that were not evolved by nature. The most sophisticated version of biotechnology is synthetic biology, which has the ambitious goal of making possible the design and modification of genetic material in living organisms. But if we want this ambitious goal to become a reality, synthetic biology also needs standards. To fill that gap and encourage standardization in biology as much as possible, the BioRoboost project was born.

BioRoboost began on October 1st 2018, and has now finished after three very productive years with an event aimed at presenting the project results to the international biotech community and to policy makers and stakeholders around the world. Throughout these 36 months, the BioRoboost consortium, made up of a unique combination of 25 entities (21 European and 6 non-European entities) including top-level research laboratories, social scientists, companies and experts related to biotechnology from Europe, Asia and the United States, has had the chance to discuss and draw conclusions on the application of standards in the biological realm, from metrology to protocols, and from DNA pieces to human behavior.

This effort has culminated in the celebration of several events, among which we highlight the publication and presentation of the white book “Standardization in Synthetic Biology”, in which different topics about standards in Synthetic Biology are exposed and discussed. The book ends with a series of specific conclusions and recommendations for those with decision-making power, not only in science, but also in politics and society, to move towards the standardization of synthetic biology. The book promotes simple actions that allow progress towards the definition of standards, as well as general lines to achieve this ambitious objective.

The white book was presented by Manuel Porcar on Thursday September 16th 2021. Dr. Porcar is the Principal Investigator of the Project and leader of the Biotechnology and Synthetic Biology Group of the Institute for Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio, UV-CSIC). In addition, Víctor de Lorenzo (National Center for Biotechnology, CSIC), Elena Ordozgoiti (Asociación Española de Normalización, UNE) and Ángel Fuentes (Health and Digital Executive Agency, in the European Commission) also attended this event.

Subsequently, several international representatives of the biotech industry took part in a round table in which various relevant aspects of standards in the biotech industry were presented and debated. Finally, local and national biotechnology companies, such as Repsol, took center stage to talk about the impact that R&D activities have on the future of this industry, and about the impact of standards on this sector. For this event we were honored by the presence of Mr. Sergi Campillo, Vice Mayor and Councilor for Urban Ecology of the València City Council, and Ms. Mª Dolores Real, Vice-Rector of the University of València.

Synthetic biology has made impressive advances in the last decade. We are assisting and actively participating in one of the scientific and technological revolutions that will decide the course of future knowledge, and BioRoboost has included Valencia on the map of this research field.

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