Biorefineries: Our Synthetic Biology Future
by Bob Kodrzycki (Encompass Biotech LLC/Lee Enterprises Consulting/Biofuels Digest) … Opportunity, such as the availability of a new feedstock or the possibility of combining technologies can lead to very interesting outcomes. … Technology alone is usually not enough to develop a market. But combined with a need and opportunity the combination can gain a foothold and lead to a revolution.
We are in a genetic revolution that is, and will continue to, influence how food, fuels, chemicals and materials are produced. Driven by the need to sustainably meet the basic living requirement of growing population and limited resources, the revolution is occurring through a confluence of opportunity and technology. The genetic revolution started when the ability to “cut and paste” DNA, known as recombinant DNA, occurred in the early 1970’s. This spark led to enhanced ability to both analyze genetics and build custom DNA molecules and genetic engineering. Half a century of creative thinking application of computing power has brought us to the current state of synthetic biology.
In the same way that software and applications are becoming integrated into every part of our lives we will see that biology, enabled by synthetic biology, will transform manufacturing and agriculture.
Synthetic biology is a confluence of technology that goes beyond simple genetically modified organisms (GMOs) of the past. The ability to make precision edits in DNA sequence using CRISPR and related techniques is being combined with sophisticated computer analysis like machine learning that can be used to “evolve” genes. Natural evolution takes place over millions of years, selecting mutated genes that are best-for-the-immediate task. Synthetic biology uses a variety of gene alteration methods and speeds up the process, allowing millions of mutations to be tested over weeks or months. Because it’s being applied to a closed system, like a better enzyme for ethanol fermentation, these improved enzymes can then be used to speed up reactions or to expand functionality.
Nothing will kill your investment pitch faster than proposing an amazing technology improvement without showing how it bolts-on or drops-in to an existing process. Remember that even synthetic biology needs to be compatible with existing production systems and logistics chains. READ MORE