National Academies Keck Futures Initiative to co-sponsor life engineering symposium


WASHINGTON The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative announced today that it has awarded $45,000 to the University of California, San Francisco, to host a symposium this summer on life engineering. The symposium, to be held Aug. 19-20, will also be sponsored by the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Department of Synthetic Biology, and the University of Oxford. This is the third and final follow-up conference to the 2003 Keck Futures conference on signaling.

QB3 will host the symposium on life engineering, aimed at academic and industry scientists interested in synthetic biology, the design and construction of new biological entities such as enzymes, genetic circuits, and cells or the redesign of existing biological systems. Topics include: the use of DNA as programmable substrate; the design of synthetic bacteria to produce malaria drugs and fight cancer; methods for programming stem cells; and ways to engineer signaling proteins to control cell morphology. Computer scientists and electrical engineers will describe robotics based on biological systems, and speakers will explore legal and ethical issues surrounding synthetic biology. There is no registration fee to attend the symposium, but participants need to register at

Funded by a $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative is a 15-year effort to catalyze interdisciplinary inquiry and to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public. The objective of the Futures Initiative is to stimulate interdisciplinary research at the frontiers of scientific inquiry. The Futures Initiative builds on three pillars of vital and sustained research: interdisciplinary encounters that counterbalance specialization and isolation; the identification and exploration of new research topics; and communication that bridges languages, cultures, habits of thought, and institutions. Toward these goals, the multifaceted National Academies Keck Futures Initiative incorporates three core activities each year: Futures conferences, Futures grants, and National Academies Communication Awards.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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