What is synthetic biology?
It is a new interdisciplinary area where the worlds of technology and biology meet. It involves the application of engineering principles to biology. It aims at the design and fabrication of biological components and systems that do not already exist in the natural world.
Since the sequencing of the first human genome in the early 2000s, the first wave of synbio, our ability to “read DNA”, has advanced at a pace that has outstripped even Moore’s Law.
A second wave of synbio followed, driven by new technologies such as CRISPR gene editing that gave us an ability to “write DNA”. Increasingly, we can more controllably design biological systems.
The third wave of synbio has seen us begin to “apply DNA”, for example in the discovery of highly effective precision medicines. However, it is widely known that these exquisite bioproducts are not readily accessible due to prohibitive costs and wide ranging manufacturing issues. The solution lies far beyond the constraints of existing platforms.
The fourth wave of synbio will be our ability to “scale DNA” – to apply our knowledge of reading, writing and applying DNA at an industrial scale that delivers genuinely global benefit for society.
This fourth wave has the potential to create billions of dollars of disruptive value in existing and new applications such as precision medicine, cell based agriculture, biofuels and decarbonisation. These promise major benefits to some of the most pressing needs of society including health, climate change and sustainability.
However, this growth is severely constrained by a “tyranny of numbers” from poorly integrated platforms.