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

Núria Rafel

  • Industrial PhD Student in the Translational Synthetic Biology Grup at UPF in cooperation with ProteoDesing S.L.
  • M.Sc in Advanced Genetics at Universitat Autónonoma de Barcelona (UAB) and B.Sc in Biotechnology at Universitat de Barcelona (UB).
  • My research is focused in developing a viral therapy using AAVs to treat a type of Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic degenerative disease that has its onset at birth and cause the death of the patients during its childhood.

Sira Mogas

  • PhD Student in Synthetic Biology for Biomedical Applications Lab at UPF
  • Associate professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra  
  • B. Sc. in Human Biology at Universitat Pompeu Fabra and M. Sc. in Computational Biomedical Engineering at Universitat Pompeu Fabra
  • International exchange at the University of Adelaide (Australia)
  • My research is based on the exploration of the computational capacity of modified E. coli strains in 2D surfaces

Eduard Suñé

  • Degree in Biomedical Engineering at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF).
  • MSc Final Thesis Research Assistant in the Translational Synthetic Biology group (DCEX-UPF) developing techniques of Directed Evolution for gene therapy.
  • Member of the 2020 UPF_Barcelona iGEM team, where we developed Hormonic
  • Erasmus exchange at the University of Essex (UK).
The center

The Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (DCEXS) 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.