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9th EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2008

Andrés Moya Simarro, Universidad de València, Spain

simarro

Andrés Moya Simarro

Biography

Andrés Moya Simarro studied simultaneously Biology and Philosophy at the Universitat de València, obtaining a PhD in Biology in 1983, and a PhD in Philosophy in 1988, with honours, at the same University. From 1985 to 1986 he stayed as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California-Davis (USA), and he has been invited Professor at the University of California-Irvine (USA) in 1988 and 1994. In 1986 he created the Evolutionary Genetics Research Group at the Department of Genetics of the Universitat de València, where he is Professor of Genetics since 1993, and was nominated as a Director from 1995 to 1998. He was a promoter of the foundation of the Institut Cavanilles de Biodiversitat i Biologia Evolutiva at the Universitat de València, where he is the present Director. He also promoved the creation of the "Centro de Astrobiología (CSICINTA)", and the "Centro Superior de Investigación en Salud Pública (CSISP del Gobierno Valenciano".

He is the author of about three hundred publications, including original articles, reviews, book chapters and books about Genetics, Evolution and Philosophy of Biology. His more significant contributions are in the fields of experimental and genomic evolution. He has been the supervisor of fourteen PhD theses. All this research has been developed with the financial support of Grants from Autonomic, National and European Union institutions to various Research Projects, as well as several contracts with public and private institutions. The Evolutionary Genetics Research Group has formed a high number of Spanish and foreign scientists. Dr. Moya has spoken at conferences and courses in several European countries, South America, United States and Asia.

He has been a member of several Commissions in the corresponding National Scientific Evaluation Agencies in Spain, several European and South American countries, and the European Union. He has also been a member of the Spanish "Comisión Nacional Evaluadora de la Actividad Investigadora" and coordinator of the Area of Biology of the "Agencia Valenciana de Ciencia y Tecnología". He is member of several international Scientific Societies and of the editorial board of several scientific journals. He was a member of the European Evolutionary Society Council. He received the "Ciutat de Barcelona" award to Scientific Research in 1996, and "Diario Médico" award in 2006. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 1998.

Abstract

Synthetic biology: Goethe's dream

The history of biology can be approached as if it were a permanent dialectic battle between two confronting views on how to deal with and to apprehend living entities: holistic versus analytic. Whereas the first view asserts that a living being should be approached as a whole -the only way to comprehend its true nature-, the second one approaches life by studying its component parts. Although the ultimate winner of that battle is not clear yet, the analytic approach has allowed the development of powerful conceptual and methodological tools to dissect the components of living beings and their complex interactions.

On the other hand, with the advent of the network theory as well as the advances in computation applied to the simulation and putative comprehension of complex biological phenomena, a more comprehensive view of biology has emerged. This synthetic biology might well represent a fundamental step towards the realization of Goethe's dream: the combination of both approaches. Based on all these achievements, I am confident about the feasibility of building a living being, or a part of it, which either already exists or is a non-natural entity. This particular view on synthetic biology, although there are others, is a very likely to give rise to applications in areas as different as biomedicine, bioenergy, environment, etc.

This type of program requires a serious reflection on the corresponding responsibilities, on the consequences of the new entities that we, humans, may create. In addition, synthetic biology demands philosophical assessment of the panoply of futures that, more than ever, can be realised as man-made reality.