ROADBLOCK is an EPSRC funded interdisciplinary project in the Synthetic Biology Signpost. This application-driven research project seeks to integrate the creation of new computational algorithms, tools and theories for synthetic biology with well-established wet lab techniques to develop an integrated and validated software suite (i.e. an in silico workbench) for synthetic.

The project focuses on synthetic biology routes for creating engineered coatings, based on modified bacteria, that act as bio-programmable shields against colonisation. The target application in this proposal is healthcare, using synthetic biology to develop biological based tools to tackle infection, however it is envisaged that ROADBLOCK constructs could be applicable in other medical, environmental or industrial applications in which bacterial colonisation or biofilm formation should be avoided. It also considers the major social and ethical issues raised by this technology. The new computational tools will permit rapid bio-model prototyping and specification, simulation, verification, analysis and optimisation. Moreover, it creates ROADBLOCK biological parts, devices and systems.

Previous synthetic biology projects had mainly mathematical (e.g. control theory, bifurcation analysis, differential equations, etc) components as auxiliary tools. In this project, Computer Science (CS) takes centre stage as we look to push its boundaries in the context of ROADBLOCK bio-devices. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first wet synthetic biology project that directly drives the development of cutting-edge computer science (CS) activities.

In the context of ROADBLOCK, we collaborate with speculative design studio SciencePractice on the societal impact of synthetic biology. An excerpt of their work can be found here.