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After initially serving as a proving ground for integrating forward engineering principles into living cells, synthetic biology is making waves across diverse therapeutic areas. In this article, Dr. Dan Mandell, Co-Founder and CEO of GRO Biosciences, explains how the field is reshaping our understanding of the limits of cell- and molecular-based medicines.

As synthetic biology passes 20 years as an established discipline, the field is poised to deliver ground-breaking therapies and cures for diseases currently out of reach to traditional therapeutic modalities. The field emerged in the early 2000s from a coalescence of readily available molecular biology tools and a desire to bring predictable, programmable-like robustness to cell engineering. Early successes demonstrated proof-of-concept for reusable molecular parts and tunable genetic circuitry. However, cellular systems are inherently noisy and non‑digital; the resistance of cells to comply with traditional principles from electrical and computer engineering therefore hampered the applicability of synthetic biology tools to real-world problems. Consequently, the field was critiqued for the fragility and context-dependence of its early engineered parts and circuits.1

Multiple significant developments in biotechnology, however, have now positioned synthetic biology as a powerful force in tackling society’s biggest challenges – including those in the clinic. These advances include a thousand-fold reduction in the cost of DNA synthesis, improvements to molecular design software, parallelized computational infrastructure and the integration of high-throughput robotics into laboratories capable of screening orders-of-magnitude larger libraries of cell- and molecular-based therapies. Furthermore, these are all supported by an attendant increase in our understanding of cellular and physiological behavior in normal and disease phenotypes. Therapeutic applications of these next-generation synthetic biology systems can be broadly divided into two groups: cell‑based and molecular-based medicines.

Read the complete original article at Drug Target Review: Synthetic biology is ready for the therapeutic limelight (