Synthetic Biology and Drug Discovery

Synthetic biology utilizes information from fields such as biotechnology, molecular biology, molecular engineering, and many more in order to design and build novel biological functions and systems. Synthetic biology is the engineering of biology itself, and will have profound implications on all levels of biological structure.

One of the applications of synthetic biology is to design or discover new drugs that can be used for agriculture or medicine. Today we know the molecular cause of almost 4,000 different diseases, but have available treatments for only 250 of them. With synthetic biology, new drugs that are capable of addressing the root cause of these diseases could be found more quickly and efficiently.

Drug discovery involves screening small molecules for their ability to modulate biological pathways in cells or organisms, with no regard for any particular protein target. This process is likely to benefit in the future from an evolving forward analysis of synthetic biology, that leads to structurally complex and diverse small molecules. Tools in synthetic biology enable disease mechanisms and target identification to be elucidated, providing avenues to discover small chemotherapeutic molecules. Engineering the genes into the host organism sucessfully will involve recoding the DNA entirely, screening the right codons to ensure that the sequence is expressed correctly. In addition, synthetic biology can provide techniques that help to design generic and affordable drugs, which could help overcome global drug shortages.

More attention and resources dedicated to synthetic biology could lead to better development of the design, construction, and optimization of biochemical pathways, and the development of high-throughput genome engineering tools for mammalian synthetic biology applications. The opportunities and challenges presented by synthetic biology are exciting and hold a wealth of untapped potential, and could lead us into a revolutionary new take on medicine.