Synthetic biology in the real world: Case studies

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YeastFab offers useful tools for industrial biotech

By Caroline Channing

Dr Patrick Cai, Principal Investigator at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology and co-director of the Edinburgh Genome Foundry, along with collaborators from Tsinghua University have published their first paper on construction of YeastFab – a library of well characterized yeast genetic parts that will serve to expedite metabolic engineering of this industrial workhorse.

It is a routine task in metabolic engineering to introduce multicomponent pathways into a heterologous host for production of metabolites. However, this process is laborious taking weeks to months due to the lack of standardized genetic tools. Highly efficient protocols (termed YeastFab Assembly) have been developed to synthesize genetic elements as standardized biological parts, which can then be used to assemble entire metabolic pathways in simple steps.

The team proved that their strategy worked by reconstructing the metabolic pathway that produces carotene (Vitamin A) in a matter of days, rather than weeks using more traditional methods.


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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