Introduction to Synthetic Biology: Visions for Biotechnology 2.0

Recent advances in our ability to read and write genome sequences on a large scale have led to an ambitious vision for a new generation of biotechnology, often referred to as Synthetic Biology. Synthetic Biology aims at turning biology into an engineering discipline, in which organism engineers use computational tools to design biological systems with novel valuable functionalities, which are then built using advanced high-throughput genetic engineering, and tested by rapid screening technologies that collect diagnostic molecular profiles to drive improved designs in an iterative design-build-test cycle. This module will introduce the engineering concepts that inform Synthetic Biology and the cutting-edge technologies that underlie our dramatically increasing ability to construct living systems with custom-made functionalities. All stages of the design-build-test cycle for novel biosystems will be discussed, with a special focus on their integration in a unified bioengineering platform. Examples will focus on the application of Synthetic Biology as an enabling technology for the bioindustry, especially for the improved microbial production of high-value chemicals and drugs. A section on responsible research and innovation will explore the transformative potential of this innovative technology within a broader socio-economic context, creating awareness of the ethical and political implications of research in this field.

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