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Creation and Synthetic Biology: Book Review

Creation and Synthetic Biology: Book Review | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

What is the origin of life on Earth? What is the future of life in the age of synthetic biology? These are two of the biggest questions of contemporary biology, and the questions that drive Adam Rutherford’s new book, Creation: How Science is Reinventing Life Itself, a compelling and accessible two-part look through the history and future of living cells. Through chapters that span the early history of microscopy to recent debates on the regulation of biotechnology and genomics, Rutherford tells the complicated story of the science of life as it might have been and as it might be.

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A review written by synthetic biologist and blogger Christina Agapakis.

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CyanoFactory project completed

CyanoFactory project completed | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

A 3-years EU-funded project entitled CyanoFactoy completed its activities on Nov. 30, 2015. The project was focused on novel ways of direct hydrogen production in cyanobacteria using synthetic biology.

 

Check the project website at cyanofactory.eu.

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Singapore: S$25 million for research in SB

Singapore: S$25 million for research in SB | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

The National University of Singapore (NUS) announced the launch of the NUS Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation (SynCTI) in October 2015, to develop the research capabilities in the field of synthetic biology in Singapore.

 

With a funding of S$25 million, this programme aims to develop novel biological systems for clinical and industrial applications; and train 30 post-graduate and undergraduate students each year and more than 90 synthetic biologists over the next three years. Seven laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities contribute to SynCTI’s research.

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Programmable plants

Programmable plants | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

In electronics, even the most advanced computer is just a complex arrangement of simple, modular parts that control specific functions; the same integrated circuit might be found in an iPhone, or in an aircraft. Colorado State University scientists are creating this same modularity in plants, by designing gene circuits that control specific plant characteristics – color, size, resistance to drought.

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Nearly a Decade of Research at Synberc

Nearly a Decade of Research at Synberc | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

The Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc) was founded in 2006 to bring together researchers working in the field of synthetic biology to help establish and grow the field. The goals for the ten-year center are to make biology easier to engineer, train the next group of synthetic biology researchers, integrate the industrial biotech community, and actively engage the public and policy makers.

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A report from the 2015 Fall retreat of Synberc.

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SB innovations need a clearer path to market

SB innovations need a clearer path to market | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

A new report from the Wilson Center’s Synthetic Biology Project highlights the need to modernize the complex and often times contradictory regulatory oversight of the synthetic biology industry. Right now, there’s a confusing mix of federal regulators and federal statutes that result in some synthetic biology products being caught in an innovation no-man’s land. And that could impede some promising innovations from reaching the marketplace, especially those from smaller start-ups.

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Four SB inventions that flummox the Feds

Four SB inventions that flummox the Feds | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

In the report, penned by the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington, D.C.–based think tank, a team of regulatory experts describe just how tortuous the path to market could be for new biotech products. It serves as a warning to startup companies that they’ll likely need to visit multiple agencies early in the development process, says Todd Kuiken, the Synthetic Biology Project’s principle investigator.

This summer, the White House acknowledged that the legal framework evaluating biotech products, last updated in 1992, has become outdated. It announced plans to modernize the rules, will begin discussions at a public meeting later this month, and is accepting public comment through 13 November. The new report lays out a series of cases—some theoretical, others already on regulators’ desks—where the current framework leads to perplexing and unpredictable results.

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The big trends in synthetic biology you need to know - Washington Post

The big trends in synthetic biology you need to know - Washington Post | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Both public sector agencies and private sector investors are pouring new money into the synthetic biology space, and that’s leading to a situation where we can expect a burst of new innovations impacting fields as diverse as agriculture, energy and health. According to the latest “U.S. Trends in Synthetic Biology Research Funding” report from the Wilson Center’s Synthetic Biology Project in Washington, D.C., the U.S. government funded more than $820 million in synthetic biology research programs in the period from 2008-2014.

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A biomedical engineer wins NIH Director's New Innovator Award

Chang Liu, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UCI’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering, has received a 2015 New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health director.

Designed to support exceptional innovation in biomedical research, the $2.3-million, five-year grant will fund Liu’s pioneering efforts to engineer synthetic genetic systems that can be used to advance the discovery and production of cancer drugs and useful enzymes.

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Natl. Univ. of Singapore making waves in SB

Natl. Univ. of Singapore making waves in SB | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

The National University of Singapore (NUS) launched a new research initiative called the NUS Synthetic Biology for Clinical and Technological Innovation (SynCTI) to further develop research capacity and capabilities in the emerging and fast-growing field, which has the potential to be the next engine for economic growth for technologically advanced countries, including Singapore.

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Spinout for commercial production of bio-propane through SB

Spinout for commercial production of bio-propane through SB | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

C3 Bio-Technologies a University of Manchester spin-out, is based on cutting-edge research originating from the University’s Institute of Biotechnology, will investigate the use of micro-bacterial technologies in the production of bio-propane.
 
The company seeks to develop an economically-sustainable manufacturing process for full-scale bio-propane production.

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iGEM2015: SynBio competition of young scientists

iGEM2015: SynBio competition of young scientists | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Unlike the birth of Silicon Valley, which started in a specific place and a specific milieu, synthetic biology seems to have a much larger global footprint. Of the 280 teams that registered for the iGEM event, 104 were from Asia, 72 from Europe, 20 from Latin America, 82 from North America and two from Africa.

Synthetic biology start-ups — especially those launched by students — are not yet attracting a lot of attention from venture capitalists. The synthetic biology projects are more like prototypes and proofs of concept rather than working products. About 160 of the 250 projects will work, but half of these are still way too far off, yielding about 80 projects with true potential. Of these, maybe a dozen end up as PhD research programs, while another dozen end up as possible companies.

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Synthetic Biology Needs Safety Mechanisms - Science 2.0

Targeted cancer treatments, toxicity sensors and living factories: synthetic biology has the potential to revolutionize science and medicine. But before the technology is ready for real-world applications, more attention needs to be paid to its safety and stability, according to a review article.

Synthetic biology involves engineering microbes like bacteria to program them to behave in certain ways. For example, bacteria can be engineered to glow when they detect certain molecules, and can be turned into tiny factories to produce chemicals.

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'Synthetic' Leaves: The Energy Plants of the Future?

'Synthetic' Leaves: The Energy Plants of the Future? | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

 

By marrying nanoscience and biology, Dr. Yang and his colleagues created a biologically inspired, but completely artificial, system that converts the sun's rays into fuel and chemicals. The system uses long, nanoscale filaments to turn sunlight into electrons, which bacteria use to convert carbon dioxide and water into butanol fuel and more complex molecules such as acetate, a chemical building block, and amorphadiene, which is used to make antimalarial drugs.

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Cheap DNA synthesis on silicon wafers

Cheap DNA synthesis on silicon wafers | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Twist Bioscience dramatically scaled down the equipment for synthesizing DNA in a lab, making the process cheaper and faster. The stamp-sized wafers contain 100 microwells. Each of these contains 100 nanowells in which DNA can be synthesized.

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Rotaxane for self-replicating chemical systems

Rotaxane for self-replicating chemical systems | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Researchers wanted to create an intricate synthetic replicator to demonstrate that it may one day be possible to construct a chemical network that could behave like a protocell – a simple self-replicating body that could be a stepping-stone towards life. For the international group of scientists, the ideal candidate for this was rotaxane – a dumbbell-shaped compound that is threaded through a cyclic molecule.

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Synthetic biology lures Silicon Valley investors - Nature.com

Synthetic biology lures Silicon Valley investors - Nature.com | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Silicon Valley’s big fish — technology investors with billions of dollars at their disposal — have finally ventured into synthetic biology’s small pond. Scared away from conventional biotechnology in past by the risky and expensive prospect of drug development, they are now lured by what they see as synthetic biology’s huge market potential, plummeting operating costs, improved business models and an increasing emphasis on computing.

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Microbes will remake manufacturing

Microbes will remake manufacturing | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Scientists are just beginning to develop their genetic engineering toolkits. So while the mind-blowing possibilities of synthetic biology — biological computers, photosynthetic humans, resurrected woolly mammoths, revolutionary new fuel sources — are all theoretically possible, they aren’t going to happen any time soon.

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A presentation of Cristina Agapakis, synthetic biologist now with Gingko Bioworks.

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Foods of the future using synthetic biology

Foods of the future using synthetic biology | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

A yogurt that slows down ageing. A peanut without allergens. Tastes you’ve never even imagined.

It might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but the future of food is taking shape at University College Cork where a number of cutting-edge projects are being developed using synthetic biology.

Scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs from all around the world are working on a series of prototypes at UCC as part of IndieBio, a first-of-its-kind synthetic biology accelerator programme.

Founder Bill Liao says the programme is set “to make a seismic impact in a range of industries from medicine to manufacturing”.

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Trends in SB include military and space issues

Trends in SB include military and space issues | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Both public sector agencies and private sector investors are pouring new money into the synthetic biology space, and that's leading to a situation where we can expect a burst of new innovations impacting fields as diverse as agriculture, energy and health. According to the latest "U.S. Trends in Synthetic Biology Research Funding" report from the Wilson Center's Synthetic Biology Project in Washington, the U.S. government funded more than $820 million in synthetic biology research programs in the period from 2008-2014.

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SB for Mars Explorations

According to a recent proposal, which is based on the conversion of atmospheric minerals and gases, Martian soil and crew waste can be transformed into propellants, medicine and food using synthetic biological processes. Raw materials for three-dimensional printing can also be produced this way.

 

The study was published by Adam Arkin, director of Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division and a leading authority on synthetic and systems biology, along with Amor Menezes. In a press release, Arkin said “not only does synthetic biology promise to make the travel to extraterrestrial locations more practical and bearable, it could also be transformative once explorers arrive at their destination.”

 

The carbon dioxide can be converted by the crew members into fuel and plant based farming using microbes can help in producing pharmaceuticals. To form raw materials for 3-D printing, minerals can be used. Using synthetic biology, the payload can be significantly lowered. Reductions of 100 percent in pharmaceuticals, 38 percent in food, 56 percent in fuel and 85 percent in materials required to form a habitat for six people have been calculated.

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10 New SB Start-Ups at Lean Launchpad 2

SynbiCITE, the UK’s Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Synthetic Biology based at Imperial College London, is running a new Lean Launchpad for budding entrepreneurs wanting to start synthetic biology businesses.

The 12-week course, aimed at three-person teams interested in commercializing technology for synthetic biology, is a US import from Silicon Valley where they use it to stress test the commercial feasibility of research.
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DARPA Gives MIT Lab $32 Million To Program Living Cells

The Broad Institute Foundry, a synthetic biology laboratory at MIT, announcedits new contract with DARPA. The lab will receive $32 million for engineering cells to find better treatments for disease, make new biofuels, or create fabrics woven with life.

“Living cells are the ultimate engineering substrate. They are the most difficult thing out there to be able to control,” says Christopher Voigt, a professor of biomedical engineering and one of the lab’s co-founders, in a video. “Imagine being able to engineer a living cell that can navigate the human body, identify disease, and correct that disease. That requires that the cell be able to sense where they are in the body, be able to detect it, and deliver a therapeutic. And that’s something that biology, we know it can do. But we don’t know how to harness that as part of a medicine.”

The Foundry is one of many labs working to manipulate the DNA of bacteria and other types of cells to make certain molecules—researchers have created cells that can make wood or seashells, for example. The work has mostly been limited to simple organic molecules, and progress has been slow since it takes a while for DNA to be put into cells and for those cells to mature.

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Researchers Make Artificial Cells That Can Replicate Themselves

The researchers made a synthetic “protocell” made of DNA and proteins packaged inside lipids, which are fatty compounds meant to mimic the cell membrane. These spheres aren’t alive, but the DNA in them contains instructions to replicate under the right conditions. By changing the pH of the spheres’ environment, the researchers were able to trigger the cells to divide. But the hard part was replenishing the spheres’ supplies so that they could start the division process over again, as real cells do. To work around this, the researchers designed the newly split synthetic cells to combine with other cell-like structures nearby. It worked—the spheres had three successful generations in the lab.

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Synthetic Biology: It's Good For You

Synthetic Biology: It's Good For You | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Synthetic biology (synbio for short) is a term that circulates freely through the tech world, but what exactly does it mean? It inspires both excitement and concern, depending on application and context. To advance uses of synthetic biology we need to promote better understanding of what these technologies mean, and how they can be used to improve the world around us in new and exciting ways.

Simply put, synthetic biology redesigns existing organisms for specific purposes. This approach is multidisciplinary, bringing together biologists, chemists, software engineers, software developers and bioinformatics specialists, among others.

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An Introduction to Start-Ups in Synthetic Biology

An Introduction to Start-Ups in Synthetic Biology | Synthetic Biology | Scoop.it

Synthetic biology — or SynBio — involves the engineering of biological systems to create useful products or functions through thoughtful tinkering with DNA. Commercial applications span several industries: energy, chemicals, materials, pharma, food, agriculture, diagnostics, probiotics, antibiotics, and gene therapy — just to name a few. According to one analysis from 2014, the global SynBio market was valued at $3.0 billion in 2013 and is estimated to reach $38.7 billion by 2020.

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