What is Synthetic Biology?

Synthetic biology is a new and evolving branch of science combining expertise and approaches from:

  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics

It brings together the ‘design, build, test’ cycle of engineering with the high computational power of modern computers to model biological systems and inform molecular biology.

This branch of science is all about the design and construction of biological devices and systems where the end users of the technologies developed could be in academia, in industry, in agriculture or in medicine.




There are two approaches used in synthetic biology:

  1. Designing new organisms e.g. bacteria by putting together all the essential metabolic pathways to allow them to function as a cell.
  2. Manipulating and introducing sets of genetic elements into existing organisms (bacteria or plants) and tailoring their metabolism and growth so that they synthesise and accumulate specific useful products.

Both approaches are based on a deep understanding of how living systems work. These approaches open a new horizon for the development of biological systems which can generate medicines, chemicals and biofuels in sustainable and controlled ways.

Responsible Research and Innovation

Synthetic Biology itself is a multidisciplinary scientific approach but it also must include Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) at its core so that as the science develops, the scientists behind the discoveries influence, and are influenced by; policy makers, stake-holders and the public through ongoing dialogue.