ONLINE: Biotech Talks I – NewSilk 2020

Designing materials on molecular level – what does it mean for researchers, designers - and for the globe?
Photo by Teemu Välisalmi
Photo: Teemu Välisalmi

Synthetic biology is becoming an essential part of our everyday life. Researchers around the globe are developing and exploring new technologies. New biotechnology companies are established, designers and artists are fascinated by biodesign and bioart, and science laboratories open for the public are emerging. But what is synthetic biology? What are the aims, methods, and possible implications?

Biotech Talks I is organized by the cross-disciplinary NewSilk research project team. The NewSilk project studies how to produce new types of silk-like materials in the context of synthetic biology. In addition to fundamental material research, it has established a dialogue between material sciences and design. One of the aims is to explore potential ways for collaboration and to communicate alternative views of the material future.

The main target audience of the webinar is the general public interested in biotechnology.


Biotech Talks I – NewSilk 2020, webinar program

14.00 Part I -  What is biotechnology?

  • Introduction: Markus Linder (Professor, Aalto CHEM)
  • Keynote: Daniel Grushkin, the founder and executive director of the Biodesign Challenge
  • Q&A


15.15  Part II - New Silk

  • The New Silk research project, 2017-2020: Markus Linder (Professor, Aalto CHEM)
  • A material experiment: Teemu Välisalmi (Doctoral candidate, Aalto CHEM)

Short talks by the researchers:

  • The beauty of molecules – modelling the future: Maria Sammalkorpi (Senior scientist, Aalto CHEM) and Pirjo Kääriäinen (Professor, Aalto ARTS)
  • How does it happen? – collaboration in practice: Laura Lemetti (Doctoral candidate, Aalto CHEM) and Pirita Lauri (Doctoral candidate, Aalto ARTS)
  • New understandings – learning from each other: Sami Hirvonen (Postdoctoral Researcher, Helsinki University) and Pirjo Kääriäinen (Professor, Aalto ARTS)
  • Biotechnology meets design - making sense of collaboration: Markus Linder (Professor, Aalto CHEM) and Kirsi Niinimäki (Professor, Aalto ARTS)

Webinar facilitator: Nina Pulkkis

The New Silk research team:

  • Markus  Linder, Laura  Lemetti, Teemu Välisalmi, Jennifer Tersteegen and  Maria Sammalkorpi (Aalto CHEM), Pirjo Kääriäinen, Kirsi Niinimäki and  Pirita Lauri (Aalto ARTS), Sami Hirvonen (Helsinki University)


  • The University of Helsinki and The Academy of Finland

Presenting keynote speaker Daniel Grushkin

Daniel Grushkin is the founder and executive director of the Biodesign Challenge, an international student competition that partners artists, designers, and biologists to envision the future of biotechnology. He is a co-founder and former executive director of Genspace, a nonprofit community laboratory dedicated to promoting citizen science and access to biotechnology. Fast Company ranked Genspace fourth among the top 10 most innovative education companies in the world.

Dan was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he researched the field of synthetic biology in 2013-2014. He was an Emerging Leader in Biosecurity at the UPMC Center of Health Security in 2014. As a journalist, he has reported on the intersection of biotechnology, culture, and business for publications including Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, Scientific American and Popular Science.

Kuva osoittaa, miten valmistetaan biosynteettistä hämähäkinseittiä suurjännitteen avulla

Spider silk is created by adding spider DNA to microbes

Researchers studying spiders have produced a synthetic biomaterial that can, in future, be used to make a multitude of products from clothes to car parts.


A combination of wood fibres and spider silk could rival plastic

The unique material outperforms most of today’s synthetic and natural materials by providing high strength and stiffness, combined with increased toughness

Microscopic image: Pezhman Mohammadi Design: Nina Riutta


The New Road to Silk: Bio-based production of silk like materials.

New Silk research project

New Silk - What can we learn from spiders?

How to produce new types of silk-like materials in the context of synthetic biology


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