Engineering solutions for synthetic biology

07 February, 2017

The world is facing a series of major challenges which could threaten the way we live our lives today. How will we satisfy the increase in the requirement for food (perhaps by up to 60% more than is needed today)? Then there is the growth in the demand for energy in the face of depleting resources. As the discovery of new medicines becomes increasingly challenging, we are also hit with the problem of the increasing prevalence of pathogens resistant to the drugs we have today.  In principle we can use biotechnology to sustainably enhance crop yields, to efficiently convert non-food biomass into fuel and to engineer micro-organisms and plants into cost-effective producers of drugs.  

But biological engineering, as we currently practice it, can be slow, expensive and uncertain, requiring constant re-invention and re-iteration by academic and commercial research workers often operating in direct competition to each other.

In this article, we explore the way that synthetic biology can borrow from the disciplines of other engineering sciences to make step change improvements in speed and agility. It takes a look at microfluidics, biosensors, DNA synthesis, automated cell processing systems, software simulation tools, and computer-aided design.