Synthetic biology: engineering life for new social and medical challenges

The Project


The main objective of this course is to introduce students to synthetic biology and more specifically in the construction of genetic devices. These genetic devices allow modifying the behavior of living cells to perform certain functions that they do not do naturally. In other words, students will learn about cell reprogramming. To achieve this goal this project is organized into two blocks.

Block 1: Introduction to synthetic biology

  1. Basis of synthetic biology
  2. Introduction to the design of genetic devices
  3. Computational simulation of designed devices
  4. Introduction to basic safety standards in the laboratory
  5. Introduction to experimental DNA modification techniques
    • Biobricks cloning
    • DNA transformation
    • Cell cultures
    • Electrophoresis
  6. Scientific communication.
    • Scientific journals and bibliography search
    • Scientific presentations
    • Scientific posters
  7. Introduction to the international iGEM competition

Block 2: Practical Project “Construction of a cellular biosensor”

The goal is to develop a cellular device able to produce a fluorescent protein in response to external signals. To achieve this goal, students have to:

  1. Design a genetic system
  2. Perform computational simulations
  3. Experimental construction in E. Coli bacteria
  4. Experimental characterization



This course will have different types of sessions:

  • Theoretical sessions where the basic concepts of the course are presented. These sessions will take place in classrooms.
  • Computational sessions where students will learn to use the CellDesigner software package for simulating genetic devices. These sessions will take place in the computer rooms.
  • Experimental sessions in which students will put into practice the theoretical concepts acquired. These sessions will take place in the laboratory.


Practical work

Small workgroups will be organized to carry out the experimental work in the laboratory. At the end of the course, each group must prepare a scientific poster with their results. Later, these posters will be presented to the rest of the students and the results will be discussed.

An important aspect is the monitoring of students to assess their degree of achievement, which will be carried out continuously throughout all sessions.

Matching profiles

This project is addressed to students with:

  1. High curiosity and ability to work in a multidisciplinary project.
  2. Ability to work in groups.
  3. Basic knowledge of computer sciences, mathematics and biology.
  4. Creativity.
  5. High motivation by both scientific and engineering issues.
Learning objectives

General Learning Objectives:

  1. Strengthen teamwork
  2. Develop communication and dissemination capabilities
  3. Learn to work in a multidisciplinary field where engineering, mathematics and computer science are combined with biology
  4. Promote patience and perseverance at work

Specific Learning Objectives:

  1. Design of genetic devices
  2. Basic laboratory safety standards
  3. Handling of basic laboratory material
  4. Computational simulation methods
  5. Genetic manipulation techniques
  6. Preparation of posters and scientific presentations
Required materials


Coordinators of the project
Marc Güell Cargol

Marc Güell Cargol

  • Tenure Track professor at UPF.
  • Coordinator of Master in Pharmaceutical and Biotechnological Industry.
  • Head of the Translational Synthetic Biology Laboratory.
  • Coordinator of synthetic biology and tissue and cell engineering classes.    
  • Coufounder of Sbiomedic and founding scientist of Egenesis Biosciences.
Javier Macía

Javier Macía

  • Associate professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Coordinator the Biomedical engineering degree.
  • Head of the Synthetic Biology for Biomedical Applications Lab.
  • Coordinator of the Systems Bioengineering Research Program.
  • Co-funder of  BIOM, a new biotechnological-based company.
Associated researchers

Guillermo Nevot

  • PhD Student in the Translational Synthetic Biology Group at UPF
  • B. Sc. in Biotecnology at Universidad de Zaragoza and M. Sc. in Systems and Synthetic Biology at the Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity (CRI) in Paris
  • Best Student Prize from Universidad de Zaragoza for “his values and experience”.
  • My research is focused in engineering skin bacteria to develop new biomedical applications for treatment and diagnosis
  • Interested in outreach, I have volunteered in schools to talk about Synthetic Biology and wrote articles for science communication magazines
Jon Martínez de Lagos Marcos

Jon Martínez de Lagos Marcos

  • PhD student in Biomedicine at Integra Therapeutics (spinoff of Universitat Pompeu-Fabra), directed by Marc Güell
  • I studied Biotechnology at University of Basque Country and then coursed a MSc in Biomedicine at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona)
  • Erasmus exchange at the University of Bydgoszcz (Poland)
  • Currently developing a tool for gene editing in vivo based on Crispr-Cas9 and transposases.
  • Interested in teaching and giving out the knowledge of science everywhere!

María García Morant

  • Industrial PhD student at Integra Therapeutics - Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • BSc. in Biotechnology at Universitat Politècnica de València. MSc. in Genetics and genomics at Universitat de Barcelona.
  • Specialized in Pharmaceutical industry by MSc. in ESAME Pharmaceutical Business School
  • My research is focused on developing a tool for EX VIVO gene editing based on CRISPR-Cas9 and transposases mechanism.

Natalia Artigas Robles

  • PhD in Biomedicine at Universitat de Barcelona (directed by Dr. Francesc Ventura), and postdoctoral experience at MRC-LMS and Imperial College of London (in Dr. Santiago Vernia’s lab).
  • I accumulate more than 10 years of experience in molecular biology.
  • Currently developing a tool for gene therapy in vivo based on CrisprCas9 and transposases.
  • I care about the impact of the scientific research over the environment as much as getting high quality and reproducible results.
  • And more importantly, I have fun in the lab!

Marta Sanvicente García

  • PhD Student in the Translational Synthetic Biology Group at UPF
  • BSc in Genetics at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and MSc in Bioinformatics for Health Sciences at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona)
  • My research is focused in computational tools development for prediction, design and analysis of gene editing experiments
Irene Higueras

Irene Higueras

  • Research Assistant at Translational Synthetic Biology group
  • BSc. in Biology at Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona. MSc. in Genetics and genomics at Universitat de Barcelona.
  • My research is focused on optimizing a gene editing tool, making a programmable Cas9-transposase system in lentiviral vectors.
The center

The Department of Medicine and Life Sciences of Pompeu Fabra University combines the creation and transfer of knowledge through the seamless integration of research and teaching. Innovation in education and research excellence are the cornerstones of our efforts.