Can bacteria treat depression? Find out at SynBio Future 2016 in Cork

19 Feb 2016

Image via IndieBio EU/Facebook

On Monday next (22 February), some of the leading experts in synthetic biology (synbio) and biotechnology will descend on Cork for SynBio Future 2016, with discussions including the advanced field of psychobiotics.

Since holding its first event in 2014, IndieBio’s SynBio Future has featured speakers representing the biotech start-up scene, new faces of industrial biotechnology, experts in functional food microbiota and brain-gut interaction, pioneers in biological regulation and licensing, and biotechnology investors.

To be hosted in Devere Hall at University College Cork (UCC), there has already been much interest shown in this year’s keynote speaker, Prof Ted Dinan, head of the Department of Psychiatry at UCC, and will be there reporting on all the happenings.

Gut instinct

In his talk, Dinan is expected to highlight the groundbreaking research being undertaken at the APC Microbiome Institute that he is involved with which suggests that, within five years, mental health problems could be a treated, not through traditional medication, but through bacteria in the gut.

He and his research team have identified a bacteria being called a psychobiotic that could be potentially used as a treatment that could lessen or halt the effects of bodily-induced mental disorders.

“There are approximately 1kg of bacteria in the adult gut, the same weight as the human brain. In the absence of gut bacteria, the brain does not develop normally,” Dinan has said on the issue.

Cork as a global hub of biotech

Dinan suggests the research could lead to the development of other therapies for psychiatric conditions, like antibiotics targeting ‘bad’ bacteria or even faecal microbiota transplantation, a therapy currently confined to people with intractable clostridium difficile infection.

A number of the leading synbio start-up companies will also be in attendance at the free event, including: Hyasynth, Evolva, GlowDx, Ourobotics, Bento Labs and Monaghan Bioscience, who will all be showcasing their contributions to helping solve global problems.

“Synthetic biology is the technology of the new millennium and as it is moving forward at an exponential pace you cannot afford to miss any opportunities to come up to speed on the latest this domain has to offer,” said IndieBio’s founder, Bill Liao.

“Cork is the global hub of biotechnology that has managed to hide its light away till now. Cork has a long tradition of entrepreneurship and is one of the world’s most liveable cities,” he added.

Full disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic