Nadine Bongaerts

Synthetic Biology

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Global Grand Challenges

Technologies based on engineered living systems radically change the way we manufacture materials, feed and cure ourselves. Those who control life, control the future. Synthetic biology holds the key to making technology that is compatible with nature and forces us to rethink the relationship of nature and technology. The digital revolution has enabled a biological revolution that is accelerating faster than ever. Breakthroughs in reading, writing and editing DNA offer new solutions for the production of cleaner energy, smarter drugs or plants that survive in difficult climates.

Topics & Presentations

What is synthetic biology? Applications for different sectors depending on the audience.

  • Production of chemicals
  • Biofuels
  • Medicine
  • Materials
  • Healthcare
  • Engineering immune cells to recognize cancer
  • Engineering pig organs to make them compatible for humans
  • Engineering Life
  • CRISPR / Cas9
  • Building cells from scratch
  • Bringing organisms to life that are extinct: e.g. the mammoth
  • Engineering Ecosystems
  • Gene Drives to eradicate invasive species and insects that spread diseases like Zika (e.g. rats / mosquitos)
  • Data Storage in DNA

Problem

  • It is expected that 10 million people will die every year by 2050 as a result of resistant bacteria.
  • Not enough new antibiotics are currently in the pipeline to solve this problem.

Solution

Synthetic Biology can help to solve this problem by:

  • New methods that were not possible without synbio to speed up the finding of new drugs for pathogenic bacteria, with a focus on tuberculosis (what I am working on).
  • Engineering bacterial viruses to only kill specific bacteria.
  • Faster detection of resistant bacteria in the environment and in patients.

Genetically engineered humans / CRISPR babies: How far should we go?

Biography

Nadine is a synthetic biologist and passionate about designing life through genetic engineering. She received her Master Degree in Life Science & Technology from Delft University of Technology and is currently pursuing her PhD at INSERM in Paris where she works on drug discovery for tuberculosis. In parallel to her scientific work, she is actively bridging the world of science with the business and society.

In 2011, she co-founded science communication agency Science Matters to support scientific institutions with the communication of their research to the public and develop education to enthuse both children and adults about science. More recently, she serves as Vice President of Hello Tomorrow, a Paris-based non-profit organisation that helps science entrepreneurs in their journey to bringing laboratory inventions to the market.

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