Biological Sciences

Systems and synthetic biology

We use biological and physical data and mathematical models to understand a range of dynamic biological processes at scales from the molecule to the whole organism, enabling us to predict how living systems respond to change, and to design new biological materials.

Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology is an emerging discipline which aims to enable the rational design and construction of new biological parts, devices and systems, using techniques and concepts adapted from engineering. Addressing challenges in environmental, industrial, and biomedical fields, it is closely linked with cell, molecular and structural biology studies, with engineering and chemistry, and with regenerative medicine. We host the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology and offer advanced DNA synthesis facilities in the Edinburgh Genome Foundry.

Synthetic biology is stimulating closer integration of the physical, computational and life sciences across the University, utilising various technology platforms:

  • computer-aided design and simulation of biological devices and systems
  • customisable DNA synthesis
  • DNA sequencing and robotics for high-throughput genetic and phenotype assays

Systems biology

Systems biology aims to integrate biological data and mathematical models into large-scale informatics infrastructure and apply novel tools to understand a range of dynamic biological processes. Researchers from each of our main research themes may use systems approaches in their work.

Current systems projects include:

  • RNA metabolism in yeast
  • interferon signalling in human macrophages and the plant circadian clock
  • process algebras and graphical notations for systems biology modelling
  • an integrated informatics infrastructure for model development
  • tools for high-dimensional model analysis


SynthSys - Centre for Synthetic & Systems Biology