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Synthetic biology in the real world: Case studies

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Creative ways of generating dialogue around synbio

By Caroline Channing

The Synthetic Aesthetics project paired six artists/designers with six scientists/engineers. The aim of the project was not to beautify or better communicate the science, but to explore the intersection of art, design, and synthetic biology in a way that allowed for dialogue and critique.

The collaborations involved a diverse range of activities including: extracting the logic of biology and applying it to architecture, sonifying amino acids, integrating ‘design thinking’ into synthetic biology, making cheese from bacteria that grow on human skin, and re-interpreting synthetic biology from the humbling perspective of geological time.

The project showed that involving artists and designers in synthetic biology can provoke reflection about the social, political and economic complexity of the technology. Their work can help us find new languages and metaphors, and can articulate a wider range of objectives, pathways and outcomes than would be envisaged otherwise.

UK Strategic Plan for Synthetic Biology 2016

Click on the image above to download the UK Synthetic Biology Strategic Plan 2016

New synthetic biology technologies are starting to offer exciting opportunities across a range of industries including manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, biofuels and health.

Research Council funding in collaboration with a wide variety of national and international partners across academia and industry, is supporting the long-term growth of UK synthetic biology, development of a highly skilled workforce and an infrastructure to underpin and enable cutting edge research in industry and academia, as well as providing support for synthetic biology start-up companies.

The pervasive potential of synthetic biology is brought to life through a series of case studies ranging from a biosensor toolkit with the ability to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes through to using enzymes from yeast mould to unlock cleaner routes to producing biofuel.

The wide ranging applications of synthetic biology will play an important role in growing the UK's bioeconomy, creating new jobs and ensuring the UK is a world leader in this area.

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