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What is synthetic biology?

A disruptive technology with amazing potential

Synthetic biology, encompassing engineering biology technologies, is defined as the design and construction of biologically based parts, devices and entirely novel biological systems, or the reengineering of existing biological systems.


Synthetic biology uses engineering principles to design and construct new biological parts, devices or systems or redesign existing natural biological systems.

Synthetic biology can be applied across a wide variety of markets and has the potential to solve many of the environmental and societal challenges of this century. Major global issues with sustainability including, environmental health, energy shortages, pollution, hunger and disease are all being addressed now by synthetic biology.

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Commercial opportunity

The global synthetic biology market is estimated to reach $38.7bn by 2020.

A number of international bodies - including the UK and US Governments, the EC and the OECD - are predicting that synthetic biology will have a significant impact on the economy, growth and jobs over the coming years. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, in 2012, synthetic biology was identified as the second most important field - in terms of industrial potential. The result is an emergent industry involving both start-ups and spin-outs - as well as the creation and development of new technology opportunities that can be exploited by existing companies, including emerging technologies and new market opportunities for large multinational companies as well as small to medium companies.

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