OpenPlant: University of Cambridge-John Innes Centre for Synthetic Biology

Lead Research Organisation: Earlham Institute
Department Name: UNLISTED


The OpenPlant initiative will establish (i) open-source DNA registries for sharing information and join an international web of registries with the first plant specific parts (ii) develop a major new plant chassis for Synthetic Biology, (iii) develop new DNA parts for the control and quantitative imaging of genetic circuits in plants, (iv) establish genome-scale engineering technologies for plants, and (v) develop software tools to improve automated DNA assembly, modeling of synthetic gene circuits and cellular morphogenesis. The development of these foundational tools and technologies will be used to contribute to the engineering of new traits in plants such as (i) altered photosynthesis and leaf structure, (ii) carbohydrate content, (iii) metabolic pathways, (iv) new forms of symbiosis and nitrogen fixation and (v) high level production of biomolecules by virus engines.

Current IP practices and restrictive licensing threaten to restrict innovation as the scale of DNA systems increases. We believe that the field needs to explore new "two-tier" intellectual property models that will protect investment in applications, while promote sharing of DNA components and freedom-to-operate for small companies in commercial applications of Synthetic Biology. We will create new forums and opportunities for open innovation in plant synthetic biology. We will sponsor discussions on the potential impact of Synthetic Biology on sustainable practices in agriculture, bioproduction, land use and environmental conservation. This will bring together a wide range of engineers, scientists and policy developers to explore new technologies and possible models for sustainable agriculture, bioproduction and land use.


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