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Biotech in Berlin: From scientific experiments to industry and society

Winter school: January 8th to February 1st, 2018

Course price: 1,850 Euros

18 hours of class sessions per week, 5 ECTS credit points

Registrations for Winter 2018 are now open.




This course covers relevant topics and current trends in biotechnology, ranging from the cultivation and molecular biology of model microorganisms, to gene editing using CRISPR/Cas. Further lectures and practicals on bioinformatics and synthetic biology, complemented with instruction in science communication, will provide students with valuable insights about the role of biotechnology in the industry and society.

Target group

Students (Bachelor to Master level) of biotechnology, biochemistry, chemistry, molecular and biology, biology (plant biology), agronomy and other life sciences.

Recent graduates (up to 2 years after Master degree) willing to gain a deep insight into recent developments in biotech or to know more about different paths as biotech professional are also welcome.

Learning Goal/Output


· Get an overview of biotechnology as a scientific discipline, from historical developments to current trends, including theory and techniques.

· Be well prepared for a career in biotechnology (academic and industry path)

· Learn basic to advanced cloning and genome editing techniques by performing experiments in the laboratory

· Gain knowledge on how to sell research through writing exercises by learning how to report results in abstracts, conference proceedings and grant funding applications.

· Master scientific communication skills to deal with different stakeholders (general public, funding body, supervisors, panel of experts, exam commission)

· Explore local society-engaging biotech initiatives such as citizen science, iGEM and BIOMOD Berlin, Biotinkering/Biohacking hubs, and Bio&Art exhibitions and talks.

Course Components

· Lectures, 70 % (aprox. 53 hours) 10 hours of Biotech 101/ general overview; 10 hours of current trends and limitation in (fungal/industrial) biotechnology; 7,5 hours each: molecular and microbiology tools in biotech; 5 hours: synthetic bio(techno)logy; 10 hours science communication (writing and presenting); 1 hour each: Biotinkering/Biohacking, Bio&Art, and citizen science.

· Laboratory experiments, 15 % (aprox. 10 hours)

· Writing exercise, 5 % (aprox. 3 hours)

· Excursions, 10 % (aprox. 6 hours; e.g. Preussische Spirituosen Manufaktur in Wedding and existing contacts and partners in Berlin (names of institutions tbc)

Short Description

This course will provide valuable insights about biotechnology by hallmarking its historical developments and current trends. Lectures and laboratory practicals will guide the students through the main and novel molecular biology tools used in research. Synthetic biology concepts and techniques (e.g. protein engineering) will be also taught to illustrate the use of engineering principles in the design and assemble of biological systems. Such material will be complemented by hands-on training on bioinformatics pipelines and biocomputational approaches

From cloning to gene editing using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, this course will showcase recent discoveries and applications in research and the industry. On those grounds, the course will highlight the relevance of three main microorganism groups currently used in biotech: bacteria (e.g. E. coli), yeasts (e.g. Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and filamentous fungi (e.g. Aspergillus niger). The applications and challenges of the latter will be discussed in detail in order to illustrate the importance of microbes in sustainable bio-economy.

Students will get a glimpse of the local activities by getting to know several aspects of biotechnology involvement in Berlin. The industrial area will be covered by analyzing examples of the vibrant landscape of biotech companies and Startups located here. Along those lines, the iGEM and Biomod synthetic biology student initiatives, will be invited to share their methodologies, findings and experiences with the incoming students. And lastly, the role and potential of biotech for the society will be illustrated by exploring alternative citizen-based movements such as in BioArt, Biotinkering and Biohacking, currently booming in Berlin.


(i) Candidates have B2 level English

(ii) At least one year of university experience

(iii) Participants are studying (or having studied) one of the biotechnology-related disciplines mentioned above


· Dr. rer nat. Corrado Nai: BSc/MSc in Microbiology, ETH Zurich; PhD in Microbiology, Freie Universität Berlin; since 2015: PostDoc in Biotechnology, Technische Universität Berlin. Since 2016 collaboration with academic publishers (BioMed Central, Oxford University Press, De Gruyter) and experience in science communication through science slams, editorial work and as an active science blogger

· Dr. Timothy C. Cairns, PhD: BSc Biological Sciences, University of Exeter, UK 2006; PhD in Molecular Microbiology, Imperial College London 2012; PostDoc in Fungal Pathology, University of Exeter, UK 2012-15; since 2015: Senior Scientist in Biotechnology, Technische Universität Berlin. Since 2007 author on over 20 scientific publications, with several grants awarded in addition to various teaching, including seminar series and bachelor projects.


SYLLABUS: The sylabus for this course is available HERE (PDF, 71,1 KB).

The "Berlin/Culture" time slots are reserved for the cultural activities included in the tuition fee, as well as for the additional tours and trips that we offer.

These activities are of course completely optional, should you want to use the time to explore the city by yourself, catch up on homework, or relax. You may find the syllabus useful when discussing with your home University whether the ECTS credits attainable for this course are accepted by them.

Winter school: January 8th to February 1st, 2018

Course price: 1,850 Euros

18 hours of class sessions per week, 5 ECTS credit points

Registrations for Winter 2018 are now open.

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Beth Sibly, Acting Director
+49 30 44 72 02 30