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Synthetic biology in the real world: Case studies

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Standards for engineering in plants

By Caroline Channing

The introduction of standards for the assembly of characterised DNA sequences and the establishment of a Registry of Standard Parts were landmarks in microbial engineering. Improvements in the ability to reprogram plants will impact a wide range of industries including textiles, fuels, sugars, fine chemicals, drugs and food.

Researchers at the OpenPlant SBRC (University of Cambridge, John Innes Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory) have established a common genetic syntax that enables the exchange of standard DNA parts for plants and other eukaryotes. This standard has been ratified by an international consortium of scientists and is being applied to the production of parts for genome editing, the engineering of novel traits and to enable coordinated development of supporting hardware and software for bioengineering. The standard has also provided a route for the deposition of plant parts at the Registry of Biological Parts and the establishment of an inaugural plant track at in the 2016 iGEM competition. 

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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