Synthetic biology is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering, as well as biology. It focuses on fabrications and design of biological components and systems that do not already exist in the natural world. One popular definition of it is “designing and construction of biological machines and biological systems, for useful purposes.” However, the key concept is rooted in biotechnology and molecular biology. Synthetic biology is one of the hot topics this year. One of the founders of synthetic biology recently quoted that “Genetic engineering is introducing a gene from species A to species b that’s the equivalent of replacing a red light bulb with a green light bulb. Synthetic biology is mainly focused on designing the underlying circuitry expressing that red or green light bulb.”
What are some goals of synthetic biology?
- Synthetic genomics – Designing and construction of a ‘simple’ genome for a natural bacterium
- Synthesis of natural products – Engineering microorganisms for the production of the necessary enzymes and biological functions to perform complex production of natural products
- Standardization of biological parts – Identifying and standardizing the genomic parts which can be used for building a novel biological system
- Applied protein design – Redesigning of existing biological parts and expanding the set of natural protein functions
Why is it related to industrial biotechnology?
Industrial biotechnology has been trying to enhance the natural mechanisms of biological processes for the efficient production of chemicals, enzymes, vitamins, fuel, and polymers. Scientists study the genomics of microorganisms for identifying biological processes that can replace chemical reactions to make new products. Nowadays, industrial biotechnology has successfully replaced the traditional way of manufacturing petrochemical products. The companies which adopt industrial biotechnology have seen that it is not only cost-effective and highly profitable but is an eco-friendly method as well. Industrial biotechnology is utilizing many forms of synthetic biology from a long period of time (splicing, directed evolution, etc.). They use microorganisms for the production of desired end products.
These are some of the synthetic biology companies that have been in the biotech market for many years:
Blue Heron, ATG- biosynthetic, GENEART and Genomatica has been selling synthetic DNA, and some leading companies which are building novel biological system for biofuels and healthcare sectors are Oteros, Amyris Biotechnologies modular genetics, DSM, Solazyme, and synthetic Genomics, etc.