Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Royal Academy of Engineering's MAY 2009 Report on Synthetic Biology
Click here to download the PDF
"This report aims to define the term ‘synthetic biology’, review the state of the field and consider potential future developments and their likely technological, economic and societal impact. It will also attempt to assess the requirements for the development of the field and to identify key policy issues."
The following is a summary of the central themes and issues that the report
has investigated, and the resulting recommendations.
Defining synthetic biology
We define synthetic biology thus:
“Synthetic biology aims to design and engineer biologically based parts, novel
devices and systems as well as redesigning existing, natural biological systems.”
This definition, while maintaining a certain level of simplicity, expresses the key
aspects of synthetic biology. It is consistent with the views of most researchers
in the field (both in the UK and abroad) and those of The Royal Academy of
Engineering. Synthetic biology strives to make the engineering of biology easier and more predictable.
Current activity and applications
There is considerable activity in a number of areas including health, energy, the
environment, agriculture and applications in other industrial sectors.
A synthetic version of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin is being developed
using synthetic biology methods. This makes it amenable to large scale
industrial production - if successful, it will have a major impact on the
treatment of malaria in the developing world. The cost of treatment should be
low as the development of the drug is being funded by the Gates Foundation.