Synthetic biology: evolution or revolution? A co-founder's perspective

Timothy S Gardner, Kristy Hawkins
Current Opinion in Chemical Biology 2013, 17 (6): 871-7
In this article, we relate the story of Synthetic Biology's birth, from the perspective of a co-founder, and consider its original premise--that standardization and abstraction of biological components will unlock the full potential of biological engineering. The standardization ideas of Synthetic Biology emerged in the late 1990s from a convergence of research on cellular computing, and were motivated by an array of applications from tissue regeneration to bio-sensing to mathematical programming. As the definition of Synthetic Biology has grown to be synonymous with Biological Engineering and Biotechnology, the field has lost sight of the fact that its founding premise has not yet been validated. While the value of standardization has been proven in many other engineering disciplines, none of them involve self-replicating systems. The engineering of self-replicating systems will likely benefit from standardization, and also by embracing the forces of evolution that inexorably shape such systems.


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