What Products are the Result of Synthetic Biology
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Published On: February 1st, 2022Categories: Articles, Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology products might seem futuristic, but many are already commercially available. Due to increased laboratory automation, advances in bioinformatics and data storage, and DNA sequencing ability, this field of bioengineering is rapidly growing. Have you seen synthetic biology products on the shelves? Read on to discover the synthetic biology products that are revolutionizing their industries.

Synthetic Biology Definition

Before diving into synthetic biology products, let’s recap what synthetic biology means. Synthetic biology is a new branch of bioengineering that uses genetic engineering to modify and create biological systems. It’s an interdisciplinary field that brings together computer science, biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering design.

Food Synthetic Biology Products

Synthetic biology is used in food production in three ways:

  • Creating new food products
  • Improving the production process for existing food products
  • Improving the nutrition of existing food products

The plant-based meat substitute from Impossible Foods is an example of a new food created with synthetic biology. Impossible Foods created a plant-based meat substitute that includes a synthetic heme protein based on leghemoglobin from soy roots. Genetically modified yeasts create the heme, which gives a meaty taste and texture and provide a source of iron in the meat substitute.

Amyris is a company that uses fermentation to create synthetic biology products. The Amyris RealSweet RebM artificial sweetener uses fermentation to create a bioidentical molecule to the sweetest molecule in the stevia plant. Since stevia can have a lingering aftertaste, the RebM sweetener allows for artificially sweetening without including the compounds that leave a bitter taste.

Whether synthetic biology is used to create enzymes or metabolites, the impact on the food industry will be substantial.

Industrial Synthetic Biology Products

For industrial applications, synthetic biology products lead us toward a more sustainable future. For example, synthetic biology allows engineers to replicate chemicals that were previously derived from petroleum or rare plants, which allows us to better allocate these scarce resources.

Rubber plants make an enzyme that converts a common phosphate into isoprene, but there aren’t enough rubber trees to meet the demand for isoprene. Dupont developed a method to mimic the isoprene enzyme with synthetic biology, creating BioIsoprene, which will allow for greater rubber production.

Synthetic biology is useful in creating biofuels. Typically this is done by hacking a microbe’s metabolism to transform plant waste into fuel. For example, a common yeast, Pichia pastoris, has been modified to break down renewable carbon sources into fuel.

Since many naturally-derived chemicals are used in industrial processes, there is ample room for synthetic biology products to solve scarcity and sustainability problems.

Medical Synthetic Biology Products

Synthetic biology products in the medical industry range from gene therapies and pharmaceutical drugs to vaccine development.

The Novartis H1N1 vaccine used a synthetic biology technique called codon deoptimization. Codon deoptimization is a method of weakening (attenuating) a live virus. DNA-based and RNA-based vaccines are the other major synthetic biology vaccine products. We have seen RNA vaccines become widely known with Covid-19 mRNA vaccines.

Sitagliptin is a chemical used to treat type II diabetes. The chemical manufacturing process for sitagliptin is difficult and harmful to the environment, so Merck developed a synthetic enzyme that could allow an enzymatic approach instead. The diabetes drug Januvia uses this synthetic enzyme in its manufacturing process. Synthetic biology products will continue to expand medical treatment options.

Synthetic Biology Product Availability

Synthetic biology products are commercially available. You might find them at your grocery store, your pharmacy, or your auto shop. This exciting field of bioengineering is bringing us forward into a more sustainable and efficient world.

Other Considerations:

How does synthetic biology contribute to the development of new food products, and what role does genetic engineering play in enhancing the nutritional value and taste profiles of these products?

Synthetic biology plays a pivotal role in revolutionizing food production by leveraging genetic engineering to create novel food products, improve existing production processes, and enhance nutritional profiles. For instance, companies like Impossible Foods utilize synthetic biology to engineer plant-based meat substitutes, such as their flagship product featuring a synthetic heme protein derived from leghemoglobin. By genetically modifying yeasts, they can produce heme, mimicking the taste and texture of meat while providing a sustainable source of iron. Similarly, Amyris employs fermentation techniques to develop synthetic sweeteners like RealSweet RebM, which replicate the sweetness of natural molecules found in stevia without the accompanying bitter aftertaste. Through these innovative approaches, synthetic biology not only expands the range of food options available but also addresses nutritional concerns and promotes sustainability in food production.

In what ways does synthetic biology contribute to sustainability in industrial applications, particularly in the production of chemicals and biofuels, and how does it address challenges associated with resource scarcity and environmental harm?

Synthetic biology emerges as a powerful tool in promoting sustainability across industrial sectors by enabling the development of eco-friendly alternatives to traditionally derived chemicals and fuels. For instance, in the rubber industry, companies like Dupont leverage synthetic biology to produce BioIsoprene, a sustainable alternative to isoprene derived from rubber trees. By mimicking the enzymatic processes found in rubber plants, synthetic biology allows for greater rubber production while alleviating pressure on natural resources. Moreover, synthetic biology facilitates the production of biofuels by engineering microbes like Pichia pastoris to metabolize plant waste into fuel, thereby reducing reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating environmental impacts. Through these endeavors, synthetic biology offers innovative solutions to scarcity and sustainability challenges, paving the way for a greener industrial landscape.

How does synthetic biology revolutionize medical treatments and pharmaceutical development, and what are some notable examples of synthetic biology products in the medical industry, ranging from gene therapies to vaccine development?

Synthetic biology drives transformative advancements in medical treatments and pharmaceuticals by harnessing genetic engineering techniques to create innovative therapies and drug compounds. Notable examples include the use of synthetic biology in vaccine development, such as Novartis’s H1N1 vaccine, which employs codon deoptimization to attenuate live viruses. Additionally, DNA-based and RNA-based vaccines, exemplified by mRNA vaccines for diseases like Covid-19, showcase the potential of synthetic biology in combating infectious diseases. Beyond vaccines, synthetic biology contributes to pharmaceutical manufacturing processes, as seen in the production of drugs like Sitagliptin for treating type II diabetes. By developing synthetic enzymes to enable more sustainable and efficient manufacturing approaches, companies like Merck enhance the accessibility and affordability of life-saving medications. In essence, synthetic biology opens new frontiers in medical science, offering novel treatments and therapies that address unmet medical needs and improve patient outcomes.

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