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Synthetic biology key in the 21st century
Date:12/18/2008

Washington, DC Among the 75 people Esquire magazine recently chose as the most influential in the 21st century are three researchers in an emerging discipline that combines science and engineering in order to design and build novel biological functions and systems otherwise known as synthetic biology.

The promise of this burgeoning scientific field lies in the potential to apply engineering principles to the fundamental components of biology. This includes the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems (e.g., tumor-seeking microbes for cancer treatment), as well as the re-design of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes (e.g., plants making energy).

"Humans have been altering the genetic code of plants and animals for millennia, by selectively breeding individuals with desirable features. But more recent advances have enabled scientists to make new sequences of DNA from scratch. By combining these advances with the principles of modern engineering, scientists can now use computers and laboratory chemicals to design organisms that do new things -- like produce biofuels or excrete the precursors of medical drugs," says David Rejeski, the director of the Project.

But just how much about this field is covered in the media? And while these scientists featured in Esquire Drew Endy, Jay Keasling and Craig Venter may hold the keys to improved medial treatments and cleaner fuels, are there adequate controls and security measures to limit potential risks? The development of www.synbioproject.org marks an effort to answer those questions.

To provide a snapshot of the work to come, the Synthetic Biology Project announces the release of the landmark paper Trends in American and European Press Coverage of Synthetic Biology, which examines coverage of the field in recent years, as well as a quiz that tests your knowledge of synthetic biology.


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Contact: Colin Finan
colin.finan@wilsoncenter.org
202-691-4321
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
Source:Eurekalert

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