Biology – the science of life itself. Engineering – the application of science to practical ends. Both are indispensable. But can they also combine into a single, powerful discipline with potential to deliver exceptional benefits? That’s the aim of synthetic biology.
Applying engineering approaches to the world of biology, this fast moving field is reaching beyond nature to develop biologically based devices that simply don’t exist in the natural world. Yet they could have an astounding impact in biomedicine, bioenergy and many other spheres.
The Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation is at the vanguard of this leap forward.
From innovative biosensors for disease detection to reengineered bacteria for drug manufacture, it is accelerating synthetic biology’s industrialisation and its capacity to deliver remarkable solutions for our rapidly changing world.
Synthetic biology’s potential to make healthcare more personal and participatory could allow us to become our own doctors and pharmacists; constantly monitoring and tweaking our body. It might even allow us to externalise our immune system by outsourcing metabolic processes to external micro-organisms. These micro-organisms, for instance yeasts, sense and diagnose anomalies in our body to produce and deliver chemicals accordingly. Such a Synthetic Immune System would be tailored to one’s genetic predisposition, age, lifestyle and anxieties.
Prof. Paul Freemont, Prof. Dick Kitney, Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation, Imperial College, London.