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Synthetic biology in drug discovery

Synthetic biology is broadly defined as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices; or the redesign of existing natural biological systems.1 It brings together a range of disciplines and skills, from biology and chemistry to computing, bioinformatics and engineering.

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It is generally accepted that synthetic biology is poised to deliver a wide range of new products and to disrupt a number of industries including pharmaceuticals, agriculture, renewables and industrial biotech. It presents the opportunity to exploit biology as never before and could be fundamental in helping us manage the Earth’s resources. However, to achieve its full potential, synthetic biology will require the continued development and convergence of its underlying skills and disciplines, to enable the rational and predictable design of biological systems.

The history of pharmaceutical drugs is one of constant development: from the use of natural products to the development of synthetic chemistry as a source of new ingredients and products, the use of antibodies and other biologics, to the emerging potential of gene therapy and personalised medicine.

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