What are the future trends in synthetic biology?

1. Production of small molecules on demand using synthetic biology approaches. Probably the most impressive examples come from the Foundry at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. When the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) put the MIT-Broad Institute Foundry's design capabilities to the test, its researchers were able to deliver 6 out of 10 molecules of interest to the US Department of Defense in 90 days. This “pressure test” confirms the potential of synthetic biology to address shortages of key compounds quickly.

2. Computational protein design. It is taking off in a big way and Alexandre Zanghellini’s company Arzeda is claiming an increased success rate (>75%), a decreased lead time (<6 months) and up to 10-fold less cost. Arzeda’s platform is fed into by natural designs and physics-based models which generates the DNA sequences needed to create their enzyme of choice. These are produced and tested, where machine learning is used to start the design process again based on their success.

3. Cellular agriculture technology. Sustainability in agriculture is a major focus of synthetic biology and cultured meat is becoming a more prominent feature of the conversation. Kate Krueger, research director at New Harvest, is developing cellular agriculture technology and alternative proteins. They are also working with others to develop scaling and a cell culture method that does not rely on fetal bovine serum (FBS), which is extremely costly. Daan Luining of Meatable is working in a similar vein. Meatable have harvested stem cells from the umbilical cord of a cow rather than taking a biopsy from the animal itself. He is one of the few people in the industry to point out the engineering potential. “Couldn’t you alter the cultured meat to make it healthier?” he asks the audience, highlighting the potential to add different components, alluding to new flavors.

Casini, A., Chang, F. Y., Eluere, R., King, A. M., Young, E. M., Dudley, Q. M., et al. (2018). A pressure test to make 10 molecules in 90 days: external evaluation of methods to engineer biology. J Am Chem Soc. 140, 4302–4316. doi: 10.1021/jacs.7b13292
El Karoui, Meriem, Monica Hoyos-Flight, and Liz Fletcher. "Future Trends in Synthetic Biology–A report." Frontiers in bioengineering and biotechnology 7 (2019): 175.
David Kirk. “Current Trends in Synthetic Biology”. BioSpace. Published on 12/04/2020.


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