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Module details

BS934-7-AU: GENE TECHNOLOGY AND SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY

Year: 2014/15
Department: Biological Sciences (School of)
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: No
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: No

Staff
Supervisor: Prof Phil Mullineaux  
Teaching Staff: Prof Phil Mullineaux, Prof Glyn Stanway, Dr Terry McGenity, Dr Metodi Metodiev, Dr Uli Bechtold, Dr Ralf Zwacka  
Contact details: School Graduate Office, email: bsgradtaught (Non essex users should add @essex.ac.uk to create a full email address) 

Module is taught during the following terms
AutumnyesSpringnoSummerno

Module Description

The development of techniques to manipulate and analyse nucleic acids has revolutionised the study of biology and provided the key driver for the massive expansion in biotechnology. Subsequent to this has been the emergence of the fields of genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics that are now the focus of the most exciting new advances in biotechnology and have led to the emerging discipline of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is an emerging area of biotechnology research that can be broadly described as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices, or the re-design of existing natural biological systems (Royal Society, UK).

The Basic Gene Technology part of the module consists of a series of 9 lectures and 6 linked practicals examining the isolation of DNA and RNA, gene cloning, the many applications of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), the construction and screening of gene and cDNA libraries, directed mutagenesis techniques, transformation of key organisms and basic lab-based sequencing. In addition, DNA fingerprinting methodologies, selection and hybridisation methods will be studied. Finally, the use of reporter genes to measure non-invasively the expression of genes, to set up novel mutant screens and to determine the levels of small molecules in the living cell will be discussed. The Synthetic Biology part of the module (3 lectures) will provide an introduction to the methods used for rapidly building new biosynthetic pathways using advanced recombinant DNA technology (Gateway and Golden Gate), the construction of novel coding sequences and the synthesis of novel genes and the first synthetic organism. Transcriptomics, focussing on RNA-seq analysis, will be covered in the final 3 lectures.

All of this is underpinned by a series of practical classes to provide first-hand experience of key procedures and to reinforce the theory learned in the lectures.

Aims

This module aims to (re)introduce you to the key techniques and skills in gene technology and then to build on this knowledge to develop an understanding and appreciation of the rapidly developing field of synthetic biology, and to equip you with some key methods in gene manipulation.

Learning Outcomes

To pass this module, students will need to be able to:

1. Understand how manipulation of nucleic acids has been central to the developments made in biotechnology and biology as a whole.

2. Describe the major tools used in gene technology and understand how such tools are used.

3. Explain how molecular techniques can be used in combination to explore biological questions.

4. Understand the importance of gene technology and in the rapidly developing field of synthetic biology.

5. Understand the applications of transcriptomics in biotechnology and molecular medicine.

6. Demonstrate practical competence in key gene manipulation techniques

7. Develop a range of key skills including information acquisition from web-based and library sources, self-directed learning, numeracy, writing and presentation of scientific reports.

Learning and Teaching Methods

Lectures: 15 x 1 hour
Practicals: 6 totalling 40 hours



Assessment

60 per cent Coursework Mark, 40 per cent Exam Mark

Coursework:
One item of practical work written up in SPF 30%. One on-line set of calculations 10%. Four class-based multiple choice tests to be completed electronically, asking questions from lectures 1-9 on themes of nucleic acid extraction, PCR techniques, recombinant DNA methods, vectors and transformation, mutagenesis methods and reporter gene technologies (20%).

Other details:
One exam consisting of a DAI and a choice of one out of 3 structured essays (40%).

Exam Duration and Period

3:00 hour exam during Christmas vacation.

Bibliography

  • Essential:
  • Glick, B.R., Pasternak, J.J. & Paten C.L. (2010) 'Molecular Biotechnology - Principles and Applications of Recombinant DNA' 4th edition, American Society of Microbiology.
  • Primrose, S.B. and Twyman, R.M. (2009) Principles of Gene Manipulation and Genomes, 8th edition, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Freemont P.S. (2012) Synthetic Biology - A Primer (1st Edition), Imperial College Press (World Scientific)
  • Recommended:
  • Brown, T.A. (2006) 'Genomes'. Taylor Francis Publishers
  • Strachan, T. & Read, A.P. (2010) 'Human Molecular Genetics' Garland Publishing
  • Ratledge, C & and Kristianson, B (2006) Basic Biotechnology 3rd Edition Cambridge University Press.
  • Slater, N, Scott W & Fowler M.R. (2008) Plant biotechnology: the genetic manipulation of plants Oxford University Press

Further information

Should you have any queries about the Module Directory pages, please contact the Course Record Team, Systems Administration Office, Academic Section; email: crt (non Essex users should add @essex.ac.uk)