Should synthetic biology be open-source?


Synthetic biology, the newer, cooler branch of genetic engineering, has gained a lot of attention in recent years because of its innovative take on biology, as well as for its similarities with the hugely successful software industry. But synthetic biology still struggles in one key area where the software industry excels: open access to information. Synthetic biology could easily be buried beneath patents protecting proprietary information, much like the pharmaceutical and biotech industries today. And while computer science and synthetic biology aren’t identical (there will likely be a lot less on the consumer-facing end from engineered DNA), a more open-source model within synthetic biology could expedite the experimentation process, allowing researchers to focus on the engineering aspects and not time-consuming DNA synthesis — ultimately bringing some of these ungodly sounding new life-forms out from labs and into the commercial world.

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