What is Synthetic Biology?

What is Synthetic Biology?


Jul 13, 2018

Blog Life Sciences , Biotechnology What is Synthetic Biology?

The following is an excerpt from BCC Research Report “Synthetic Biology: Global Markets” by John Bergin.

Synthetic biology is an emerging field that uses standardized DNA building blocks (e.g., synthetic genes, etc.) to create value-added products with advanced functionality (e.g., bacterial cell bioreactors, etc.) to produce desired end products (e.g., drugs, chemicals, etc.).

There are three key producer groups in the synthetic biology industry: (1) those developing enabling technologies such as DNA synthesis and sequencing; (2) those making DNA building blocks and integrated systems such as synthetic genes or minimal organisms; and (3) those producing desired products using synthetic biology platforms.

A key objective of synthetic biology is the use of standardized DNA-based building blocks to design cells for a specific purpose, such as producer cells to be used in cellular factories. To date, these producer cells are microorganisms (e.g., bacteria or yeasts).

These synthetic biology-derived cellular factories have advantages over conventional bioprocesses, such as higher yields, more flexibility in choice of feedstock materials, or lower cost.

For our purposes, BCC Research uses the following working definition for synthetic biology: Synthetic biology uses engineering principles to (1) design and construct new biologic parts, devices or systems, or (2) to redesign existing natural biologic systems for a given purpose.

Synthetic biology encompasses a range of technologies ranging from gene synthesis to pathway engineering, and likewise, the number of product applications is numerous and growing.

The concept represents a major change in the scope of biotechnology. The existing paradigm of genetic engineering is to modify existing genetic material, cells or organisms, usually one gene or modification at a time. The paradigm change of synthetic biology involves applying engineering principles to biology to design new biologic systems for a particular purpose, often making multiple changes in parallel. Synthetic biology operates on a much more complex scale than genetic engineering.

Systems biology is related to synthetic biology because it studies interactions and relationships among different parts of biologic systems. For example, how do gene and protein networks influence metabolic pathways or cell signaling? Because synthetic biology seeks to construct biologic systems or parts thereof, understanding how the components of such systems interact is an important area of study.

Nanobiotechnology is related to synthetic biology since it studies biologic components of nanometer size. DNA, a key component of synthetic biology systems, has a diameter of 2 nanometers, and thus fits within the realm of nanobiotechnology. Synthetic biology provides a framework for developing nanobiotechnology in a more systematic manner.

Looking for market insights on the global markets surrounding synthetic biology? Download the free report overview.


    Stay ahead of industry trends, build your market research strategy and more.

    John Bergin

    Written By John Bergin

    Guiding smart decisions every step of the way

    Guiding smart decisions every step of the way

    We are your trusted research partner, providing actionable insights and custom consulting across life sciences, advanced materials, and technology. Allow BCC Research to nurture your smartest business decisions today, tomorrow, and beyond.

    Contact Us