Synthetic Biology is the exploitation of biological systems in purpose-driven approaches by combining the abstract design or re-design of biological parts with fabrication leading to real biological systems or components thereof as tangible outcomes by the use of engineering methods. This is in contrast to approaches that rely on random modification, screening, and selection. As such, it constitutes a complementary engineering counter-part to systems biology. By following the engineering approach that has lead to excellent results in other disciplines such as electrical engineering or computer sciences, Synthetic Biology will require standardization of components and conditions, component and device abstraction, and decoupling of system design from system fabrication. Thus, Synthetic Biology aims at recruiting the knowledge base of engineering for biology and might enhance the speed and scope of the ongoing biological revolution.
Synthetic Biology is a recent development mainly driven by a core community of engineers and molecular biologists at leading US institutions like Harvard University, MIT, Caltech, UCSF, and others. This community is unique in that it has trained engineers applying “classic” engineering tools to engineering biology, and its potential outreach is illustrated by initiatives such as the MIT Registry of Standard Biological Parts. Mainly driven by the EU, a Synthetic Biology is emerging in Europe as well, although still few engineers are involved in synthetic approaches at the level of molecular biology. We propose to initiate such a community in research and education, in particular here at ETH in Zurich with its unique combination of excellent science, integration of natural and engineering sciences, its efforts in systems biology, and a community of researchers that is already devoted to the topic (currently, ETH researchers are involved in three European Union-funded research and support projects in Synthetic Biolgy)
The working group has been formed in summer 2005 over the participation of the first ETH student team in iGEM,the Synthetic Biology summer competition. Currently, we teach the class Synthetic Biology (151-0924-00L) and run the ETH Zurich iGEM team.
More links for Synthetic Biology:
The Synthetic Biology community website
Please find here a recent review on Synthetic Biology from the Zurich group
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