Owen Presents: A PhD Presentation on Biological Design Automation – Friday 16th September

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This Friday, our newbie developer Owen Gilfellon will be impressing Team OB (Orange Bus) with words of wisdom from his PhD investigation ‘Computational Intelligence for the Design of Synthetic Genetic Circuits’. (Try saying that after a few beverages!)


DNAIn my talk I will briefly introduce synthetic biology, evolutionary algorithms and explore their use for automating the design of genetic circuits:

Synthetic biology approaches biology with an engineer’s perspective. By employing abstraction, standardisation and model-based design, synthetic biologists aim to forward-engineer biological systems predictably. Still in its infancy, synthetic biology has been used to design bacterial “factories” for novel pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, to perform environmental remediation and to implement computation within living cells.

Cells navigate, communicate and process information by coordinating genetic expression in response to internal and external stimuli. Analogous to electronic circuits, genetic circuits have been engineered that implement digital and analogue computation using these transcriptional and translational fluxes instead of flows of electrons.

However, genetic circuits are challenging to design. Circuits require careful balancing of components to generate desired behaviours, and are extremely sensitive to genetic and environmental context. Furthermore, most genetic circuits are currently designed manually, which limits their size and complexity. It has been suggested that biological design automation is needed to advance genetic circuit engineering, similarly to how electronic design automation has contributed to advances in the design of electronic circuits.

Evolutionary algorithms are useful, general-purpose algorithms for exploring large and complex design space by identifying solutions to problems through a process of optimisation. Diverse populations of candidate solutions are generated through a process of “mutation” and “reproduction”. By selecting solutions for reproduction based on how well they solve a given problem, the population evolves increasingly successful solutions to that problem.”

Team OB look forward to being enlightened! If you fancy holding a Friday Beers with Ideas with the Orange Bus team, drop us a line at hello@orangebus.co.uk with your suggestion session content. You can check out all our previous guests right here on the Beers with Ideas blog.

Team Orange Bus enjoying Beers with Ideas
Team Orange Bus enjoying Beers with Ideas

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