Synthetic Biology put to the Test at School

A Glimpse into the Blueprint of Life

"Synthetic Biology" is an emerging field of research of natural sciences that concentrates on the artificial production of biological systems using a modular construction system. The students at HLFS Ursprung extensively deal with the possibilities and dangers of "SynBio" in a school project.

Therefore, a panel discussion about the ethics and security of this new field of research is being organised while the possibilities of SynBio are being tested in the lab. Dr. Nediljko Budisa from the famous Max-Planck-Institute and Dr. Markus Schmidt, leader of the EU-project "SynBioSafe", talk with the students about explosive issues: How far can the artificial production of synthetic systems go? What are the risks if, for example, viruses can be produced synthetically?

However, also in the school lab respectable results can be achieved. The young researchers have already succeeded in inserting two synthetic amino acids into the enzyme amylase in order to change its structure and properties. Amylase is an enzyme used in industry on a grand scale that breaks down starch into sugar, for example in the production of bio ethanol. The students want to show that it is possible to modify complex biological molecules with the help of "SynBio" and, consequently, save immense amounts of energy in the near future. The students have already won the first prize at "Jugend innovativ" in the category "climate protection". They will present their synthetic amylase at scientific expos in London and Lisbon.


  • Acquisition of the latest lab techniques
  • Acquisition of safe methods of operation in the microbiology lab
  • Social learning in a team
  • Students learn to comprehend and deal with scientific, English texts
  • Students apply and link factual knowledge from molecular biology
  • Students can assess benefits and dangers of genetic engineering and "SynBio"
  • Importance of safety regulations and ethics is internalized
  • Students can form their own personal opinion and define arguments
  • Scientific publication with students as co-authors


  • Students organise their project on their own with the help of experts
  • Students accomplish with the help of scientists and the project leader the entire operational procedure in the school lab, design a business plan, the lab protocol, breed bacteria, express the synthetic amylase, observe safety and hygiene regulations, document their work online in the project’s knowledge management tool, check their results with high tech equipment and instruments at the Max-Planck-Institute in Martinsried, discuss with experts from the International Dialogue and Conflict Management safety and ethical aspects of synthetic biology, write a final report, the web site and press releases

Further Information

This project has been completed.