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Enabling the synthetic biology revolution to reach across sectors
April 3, 2023
We are on the brink of a biological revolution that is estimated to have a $4 trillion per year impact globally over the next 10-20 years. Synthetic biology is on the path to becoming a global buzzword, with projected applications that will enable the production of 60% of the world’s physical resources and address 45% of current global health issues. As population shifts, climate change, and environmental degradation pose greater threats, competition for finite natural resources will intensify. With its ability to engineer the DNA of microorganisms, and its wide array of applications, synthetic biology offers a valuable Swiss Army Knife-style solution to those challenges if it can be further developed and scaled.
Unlocking the Potential of Synthetic Biology
Healthcare developments using synthetic biology are wide-ranging, from drug discovery and biomanufacturing to gene therapy. Yet, the advantages don’t stop there, with synthetic biology, we can extract natural materials able to disrupt materials industries and solve critical climate concerns. Recombinant structural proteins like resilin offer a promising alternative to traditional synthetic materials due to their superior thermal and mechanical properties and the potential for biodegradability.
Biological materials, such as resilin, which, compared to alternatives, has better resilience qualities and a simpler, potentially cost-effective production process, could disrupt major sectors, including the plastic industry. However, the commercialization of new materials is the major challenge to success, rather than the technology itself. As the global scientific and business communities become more accepting of synthetic biology technologies, the resistance to advancement will decrease, but the pressing question remains: how quickly or slowly will this happen?
Making Synthetic Biology the New AI
Even 10 years ago, it would have been a great stretch to imagine the vast quality applications that AI has today. It is in the midst of transforming the very structures of the world we live in across sectors and generations. Synthetic biology will undoubtedly bloom in the same way; however, for this technology to reach the same stage that AI is at today, we must invest in developing expert knowledge in this sector, enhancing research tools, and making applications operationally sustainable and scalable.
While synthetic biology technology is still in its infancy compared to AI, there is no doubt that it will continue to transform the world. Universities play a crucial role in driving innovation and bridging the gap between academia and industry, which is essential for advancing synthetic biology and unlocking its full potential. With continued investment and collaboration, the possibilities for synthetic biology are endless.
The Challenges to Development at Scale
Modern materials science, including that involving synthetic biology, is making significant headway in making the planet cleaner. However, commercialization is often a large obstacle as sustainable products are typically more expensive to make and manufacture than their counterparts. The high cost of research and development creates significant barriers to the widespread adoption of synthetic biology at the speed the world realistically needs. The decrease in the cost of DNA sequencing and synthesis due to advances in this field has resulted in greater availability of genetic information and advanced genetic engineering capabilities. Only with scale can production costs be reduced, and the world benefits from the biotechnological, medical, and energy production applications of synthetic biology.
To fully realize the potential of synthetic biology, we must invest in knowledge and research and find ways to overcome the challenges posed by the high cost of production and commercialization. The assembly of the Global Future Council on Synthetic Biology presents an important step in articulating the values and principles that will guide the responsible development and deployment of synthetic biology.
Additionally, tech transfers, such as Yissum, play a crucial role in the development and deployment of synthetic biology, facilitating the transfer of knowledge and expertise from academic institutions to commercial entities. Through collaborations and partnerships, companies can leverage academic research and intellectual property to develop more sustainable and cost-effective products. By translating scientific discoveries into practical applications, tech transfers are important in accelerating the adoption of synthetic biology at the speed required to address global challenges. Therefore, promoting and supporting tech transfer initiatives is essential for the sustainable development and widespread adoption of synthetic biology. With the right resources and commitment, synthetic biology has the power to become the next big technological breakthrough, driving innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.
Dr. Liron Nesiel (Nuttman) is the CEO of Smart Resilin, a company that produces Resilin and Resilin containing products.