Bacteria, metaphors and responsible language use

A lot has been written about the war on bacteria, especially in the context of antimicrobial resistance. Some articles reflect on the metaphor of war in medicine and in microbiology more generally, others deal with the metaphors of bacterial communication and communities. A few papers look more closely at the way bacteria are anthropomorphised in the …

Fermenting hope; fermenting hype?

When I first became involved with the Synthetic Biology Research Centre here at the University of Nottingham in 2014, I wrote a blog post in which I pointed to fermentation as one of its historical and intellectual roots. I called it ‘Fermenting thought’. Now, four years later, I have come across an article in The …

In the shadow of Frankenstein: Mapping and manipulating genes and genomes

I was starting to prepare a talk for Pint of Science in May, for “The Body” strand, which this year here in Nottingham focuses on regenerative medicine and genetic engineering. It’s entitled “GMYou”. I know, it’s a long way off, but they needed a title and so I began to muse. In the end I …

Catching a metaphor on the fly: ‘Greenfield genome design’

A week ago, something interesting washed up in my twitter stream, something a metaphor collector like me had to pick up and inspect. Andrew Hanson, an expert in metabolic engineering working at the University Florida, tweeted: “Excellent short 2016 piece from @claudiaevickers on #synbio platforms & the future of the microbial cell factory industry. Coins …

Genome editing: Invisible mending

Last week I had a few days in Oxford to visit old haunts, such as the Ashmolean, the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers Museum. I also went to a little exhibition in the basement of the Museum of the History of Science. The exhibition by Anna Dumitriu was entitled BioArt and Bacteria. …

Why are NGOs sceptical of gene editing?

This is a guest post by Richard Helliwell. It is based on the recent article Why are NGOs sceptical of genome editing? published in EMBO Reports, co-authored with Sarah Hartley (University of Exeter) Warren Pearce (University of Sheffield), and Liz O’Neill (GM Freeze). It is the first study examining NGO perspectives on genome editing. Genome …

Social scientist needed to collaborate with synthetic biologists!

 It’s that time of year again when we send out a call to undergraduates to become part of an exciting team adventure that ends in a big jamboree in Boston in November 2018 (see featured image). We especially need a social science undergraduate to take part (law, sociology, politics, etc.), with an interest in interdisciplinary …

Base editing, biological complexity and the limits of metaphorical explanation

Gene editing has been in the news since around 2013. Here I want to focus on one of the most recent advances which made me question my own understanding of gene editing. In 2015 a team of scientists led by Junjiu Huang at Sun Yet-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, used gene editing techniques, in this …

Turning bacteria into passwords

A few days ago, I had the pleasure to meet two enthusiastic members of the first Nottingham iGEM team: Vikram Chhapwale, who specialises in computer science and AI, and Chris Graham, an emerging expert in biochemistry and genetics. Both are undergraduates studying at the University of Nottingham. Chris and Vikram are part of a seven-member …