News from ISGlobal
“The annual scientific retreat is to our institution what harvest day is to the communities,” said ISGlobal Director Antoni Plasència when opening the event that took place at the CosmoCaixa on Friday June 8. And indeed, it was a plentiful and diverse harvest celebration, where many exciting results and future projects on a broad range of subjects related to global health were presented. The event was successfully organised by ISGlobal researchers Cathryn Tonne and Hernando A del Portillo (ICREA).
The opening lecture was given by Ricard Solé, ICREA Research Professor at UPF, whom ISGlobal’s Scientific Director Josep M. Antó described as a leading figure in communication between scientists and the wider society. Solé explained how the changes experienced by our planet in the Anthropocene era are likely to be abrupt “tipping points” which will have a great impact. He proposed that one solution to the large-scale problems we are now facing is synthetic biology, which involves redesigning cellular circuits in living organisms that, by reproducing and expanding, can help restore the equilibrium in our ecosystems. He gave some examples on how microbial biotechnology can be used to restore degraded ecosystems or engineer synthetic symbiosis in drylands, and he mentioned Ascension Island as the first synthetic ecosystem that exists thanks to Charles Darwin. He concluded his talk quoting British physicist Dennis Gabor: “the future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented.”