‘Synthetic biology doesn’t have to be scary’: It could offer us new medicines, biofuels and everything in between

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Though hacking organisms and rearranging genomes may sound scary, there is definitely a Light Side to this narrative (a balance, if you will). From medicines to biofuels and everything in between, there is incredible potential for cleverly redesigned biology to help us take on some of our world’s most pressing challenges in sustainability.

One of the first success stories in the field was engineering yeast to convert sugar into the precursor to artemisinin, the key molecule used in malaria treatments. It’s an expensive endeavor to grow a field of Chinese sweet wormwood plants, harvest the field, and extract the small traces of artemisinin found in the plant leaves. Now, we can more directly brew the malaria treatment in giant fermenters, concentrating most of our resources on producing the specific molecule we want rather than growing up all the other parts of a leafy plant.

Related article:  Sequenced pea genome aids effort to improve global nutrition, boost sustainable farming

From the production of farnesene (a biofuel) to skin-moisturizing squalanespider silk proteins, cannabis, and even the fragrance of an extinct flower, these companies are building scientific platforms that can sustainably produce hundreds of molecules relevant to many sectors of society. The possibilities of what can be made with synthetic biology are growing every day.

Read full, original post: The Light Side of Genetic Engineering

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