RR944 - Synthetic biology: A review of the technology, and current and future needs from the regulatory framework in Great Britain

Synthetic biology has been described as 'the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems, and the re-design of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes'. It encompasses engineering of DNA-based biological circuits using standard biological parts, finding the minimal genome capable of functioning, constructing protocells, ie, living cells from scratch, and chemical synthetic biology in which biological systems are created based on a biochemistry not invented by evolution (ie, not the G-C-A-T nucleic acid backbone). It has developed from genetic technology that has discovered the functions of genes and proteins to enable the above developments, assisted by supporting technology that now allows gene sequencing to be done more quickly and at a much lower cost, as well as the emergence of commercial sequencing services and standardised production of genetic sequences, or 'Biobricks'. The consequence of this development of the technology is to make it more widely accessible and expand it beyond microbiology into the disciplines of engineering, chemistry and computing.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2021-04-26