Synthetic Biology

SynBio aims to create new biological components that don’t exist in nature – either from scratch or redesigning natural parts. Whether to start afresh or start with something that already works splits the two approaches to synthetic biology:

  • bottom up – using manufactured biomolecular components and synthesising them into living structures
  • top down – giving new, or novel, functions to already living cells using genetic engineering

Although evolution has created some amazing machines, at every level from proteins to mammals, it is unguided and therefore may have missed opportunities whilst it was just trying to survive in the harsh environment.

Examples of applications within healthcare and life extension include:

  • cell transformation – improving the function of existing cells with human designed gene circuits and organelles
  • designer proteins – instead of improving the processes natural proteins take part in, it’s possible to improve the design of the proteins themselves
  • drug delivery – building logic into bacteria allowing better targeting of pharmaceuticals, therefore reducing some of their side-effects (a synthetic call LOCKR has already been designed to provide this sort of logic)
  • biosensors – e.g. using modified bacteria to detect and report on infections


Book Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life - Book about synthetic genomics. - Amazon

Audio Kate Adamala on Creating Synthetic Life - Sean Carroll podcast helps to define the boundary of the chemistry of life

Company Synlogic - Company designing Synthetic Biotic medicines.

Book Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity - Explores how the genetic revolution will transform us, our species and our world - Amazon

Company Nuclera

Company Cobra Biologics

Book The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology - Amazon

More Synthetic Biology resources

Recent News

Synthetic protocells allow researchers to examine cell movement

Nano Magazine - 06-Dec-2019

The more ways we can study and understand cell activity the better


"Smart" cells for 'smart' therapies

UCSF - 24-Jul-2019

“Smart” cells behave like tiny autonomous robots, planned to detect damage and deliver help


Programmable bacteria can be used to kill cancer cells

New York Times - 03-Jul-2019

This could be dawn of a new era - cancer treatment without side effects

More Synthetic Biology News