What is synthetic biology?
Biologists investigate and categorize living things and the environments that they inhabit. Engineers use defined processes based on science and math principles to solve technical problems. Synthetic biology, or SynBio for short, is a merge of these two
disciplines. On the biological side, SynBio uses information obtained from systems biology, genomics, genetic engineering, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, and biochemistry. On the engineering side, SynBio uses principles and ideas from biotechnology,
biophysics, computer science, nanotechnology, bioinformatics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and in silico analysis and testing.
The overarching goal for synthetic biology research is to create biologically based solutions or products. In a similar way that chemists have been able to take rudimentary chemicals from our planet and create plastics, alloys, and other complex materials,
synthetic biologists want to engineer biology to create new products for industry, agriculture, and healthcare in a sustainable manner.
What are the key applications for synthetic biology?
SynBio has been used in many applications, and future applications are only limited by human imagination. In industry, SynBio applications include the production and manufacturing of enzymes, sustainable production of biofuels, and creation of bio-based
specialty products. Synthetic biologists are applying engineering principles to biological discoveries to create microbial biosensors for pollutants and to develop microbes or plants for bioremediation of contamination or water pollution in the environment.
In healthcare, synthetic biology is used for rational drug design, immunotherapy for cancers, and creation of medical treatments using sustainable practices. New treatments, such as Car-T therapy for lymphoma and other blood cancers, use SynBio techniques
to modify a patient’s immune system so it eradicates their own unique cancer. This breakthrough therapy may potentially replace traditional chemotherapy for cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Agricultural biotechnology (Agbiotech) has and will continue to benefit from SynBio research. Applications of SynBio principles facilitate sustainable farming practices, improve animal health, improve disease resistance and yield of crops, and develop
new specialty foods that will reduce our dependence on traditional crops.
One of the most important applications for SynBio brings the technology and scientific discovery full circle. As scientists use engineering principles to design biologically based products in agriculture, industry, healthcare, and environmental studies,
the lessons extend our knowledge of biological principles. Each new product or solution extends our knowledge of how living things function.