Synthetic biology (SynBio) is a new field of science that merges biology, chemistry, computer science and engineering
Combine multiple cellular components in a modular way
This multidisciplinary field enable fast manipulation of biological systems to achieve a desired product. The SynBio community has brought together experts in genetic and metabolic engineering with mathematicians and computer scientists to create toolkits meant to solve problems in many different industries, such as medicine, agriculture, energy, food, and environment.
Synthetic biology work is done on multiple levels—engineering new biological entities, including macromolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins, through genetic pathways up to cells and organisms. The difference between synthetic biology and
molecular biology is the ability to combine multiple cellular components in a modular way to achieve a desired performance criteria to solve for a specific problem.
There are two major approaches to synthetic biology, bottom-up and top-down. The latter is based on genetic and metabolic engineering, which involves modifying an existing network of genes or enzymes making specific modifications that enable the production of a desired new product. Bottom-up is engineering new genetic circuits, which are a set of DNA sequences that encode either RNA or proteins and control each other’s levels.
The four claims of SynBio
SynBio is an emerging field of science that involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to have new abilities. There are 4 claims that underpin this new concept
The only real way to understand a biological system is to reconstitute the system from basic parts.
The complexity of living systems makes them extremely unpredictable and hard to study, redesign and testing of biological systems can possibly allow for better interaction for studying and manipulation.
Engineering a living system in the most basic molecular level is the only way to make new biological components
Finally, the definition of biotechnology can be broadened to include engineering of biological systems for energy production, material fabrication, chemical biosynthesis as well as data storage.
The DNA revolution
All the above are the ideas that define synthetic biology however the technological developments that made it possible are DNA sequencing and synthesis. The sequencing revolution that started with the human genome project and reduced the price of sequencing enabling the generation of enormous amount of genetic information that in turn has increase understanding of natural systems. In addition, advances in DNA synthesis technologies have reduced the price to allow multiple rounds of design, build test cycles for engineering components of complex living systems.
New Bio-Driven Engine
As it stands today, SynBio is a disruptive force in the world’s economy and the engineering of biological system is set to be the future of manufacturing. Microorganisms can potentially be a bottomless source of human consumption products, including food, energy, and materials. Additionally, SynBio are already making strides in medical devices, electronics, beauty, fashion and construction. With the force of automation, data collection and artificial intelligence synthetic biology and biotechnology can disrupt most industries, predicting that in less than a decade bioproduction will take a significant role in manufacturing industries which accounts for a third of global output valued at more than 30 trillion dollars.