There is a trend in the regenerative medicine field to include gene therapies when describing the work being performed by academics and industry, as in “cell and gene therapies.” The wider definition better reflects how the industry is evolving and acknowledges the dual focus. I expect the same may happen with synthetic biology’s role in regenerative medicine.
Until Medicine by Design launched at the University of Toronto (U of T), I don’t recall coming across the term synthetic biology, but developing synthetic biology tools is an area of focus for this interdisciplinary group consisting of biologists, engineers, mathematicians and clinicians. You can watch this video of Dr. Peter Zandstra, CSO of CCRM and Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering at U of T, describing the new program and explaining that computational biology and synthetic biology adds to the regenerative medicine toolbox as another way of “designing cells, tissues and organs from the ground up.”
Andrew Hessel’s enthusiasm for synthetic biology is infectious. Hessel is a futurist and a Distinguished Research Scientist with Autodesk who was speaking about synthetic biology back in 2009. In the video below, he makes the provocative statement that synthetic biology “will touch every area of humanity.” So why would a technology company like Autodesk be interested in something biological? Hessel says synthetic biology is complex and data heavy, and he predicts that it will be the “next big digital industry.” Further, he says it will be one of the “biggest industries in the world over the next few decades.” Wow.
If the idea of a tool to program living cells interests you, or you’re inspired by the notion of cells that act as “a 3D printer for thousands of different compounds,” you won’t want to miss this video.
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