Jan Roelof van der Meer


Targeting environmental pollution with engineered microbial systems a la carte

Domaine: Cooperation FAB

Acronyme: TARPOL

Durée: 01.07.2008 – 30.09.2010

Budget total: 997.215 EUR

Budget UNIL: 26.206 EUR


Jan Roelof van der Meer, Département de microbiologie fondamentale, FBM



Synthetic Biology-SB- deals with rational combination of biological properties with central elements of engineering design. By merging the genetic tool box already available with engineering disciplines & computer sciences there is a great opportunity for a new approach to environmental pollution problems through application of modelling techniques & organizing development of novel biological systems across a hierarchical architecture with defined & standardized interfaces.

However this faces 3 major bottlenecks:

  • The scientific & technical European contributors on SB have so far failed to recognise their latent capacity to shape a fresh discipline at their very interface
  • SB still lacks a comprehensive language & shared conceptual frame for the description of minimally functional biological parts
  • The development of SB touches on social sensitivities related to recreating life-in-the-test-tube which threatens to re-awaken the GMO controversy.

Thus scaring off the necessary industrial input in the field. To tackle these challenges, we propose a 2-year program run by a large expert group to coordinate the fragmented efforts & direct this discipline into the most industrially beneficial and socially viable directions.