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How can we use synthetic biology to prepare for future pandemics?

About this event

The COVID-19 pandemic that has caused the world to go into lockdown came as no surprise to biologists worldwide – viral outbreaks happen all the time. However, one thing has been determined: the UK was not in a good state of preparedness to deal with SARS-CoV-2.

Synthetic biology can allow scientists to prepare for future outbreaks: from being able to set up synthetic biology workflows that can rapidly pivot to suit demand for testing, to aiding in vaccine and therapeutic development. This begs the question, why were countries so underprepared?

Where can synthetic biology make the biggest impact in a pandemic and what can we learn from COVID-19?

And perhaps most importantly, what are the barriers that are stopping us from utilising this science before the next pandemic?

Join us in a global discussion on the capabilities of using synthetic biology for preparing for future pandemics, with examples from COVID-19.


  • Bettina Hamelin, President and CEO, Ontario Genomics
  • Paul Freemont, Professor, Imperial College London, Co-founder SynbiCite
  • Douglas Friedman, Executive Director, EBRC
  • Claudia Vickers, Researcher, Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

Discussion points:

  • Where can synthetic biology have the biggest impact when utilised in diagnostics, vaccine, and therapeutic development in response to an outbreak?
  • Learning points from COVID-19: Why did the contingency plans fail? How can we pivot for a quick response to the next pandemic? Where are the best places to invest for preparation? What can we do better next time? 
  • What is preventing the scientific communities from utilise synthetic biology to its full potential before the next pandemic? e.g. Funding, understanding of the science and regulatory challenges

Attendees will leave with:

  • An understanding of the scientific basis of synthetic biology in pandemic preparedness
  • Insights into where and how synthetic biology can play a role in the diagnosis and vaccine development against COVID-19.
  • An overview of how to pivot a synthetic biology workflow in response to a pandemic
  • Learning points from COVID-19 that we can use to be better prepared for the next pandemic

Hosted by

  • Guest speaker
    Bettina Hamelin Ontario Genomics @ President and CEO

  • Team member
    RL T
    Richard Lumb Front Line Genomics

  • Guest speaker
    Claudia Vickers Associate Professor @ Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology

  • Guest speaker
    Douglas Friedman Executive Director @ Engineering Biology Research Consortium

  • Guest speaker
    Paul Freemont Professor @ Imperial College London

Front Line Genomics

Delivering the Benefits of Genomics to Patients Faster

Front Line Genomics is a genomics-focused media company, with a social mission to deliver the benefits of genomics to patients faster. We organise the Festival of Genomics, digital events and webinars. We also produce reports and operate a content-rich website.