The emerging discipline of synthetic biology holds tremendous potential for both basic research and for delivering powerful, novel solutions to real world problems (both in medicine and in other industries). This field has grown from a handful of researchers at Princeton, MIT, Harvard, and Universities in California (with pioneers such as Dr. Drew Endy, Dr. George Church and Dr. Ron Weiss leading the way) to include laboratories all over the world. It is my belief that this field will represent the future of biology and will be a vast and critical part of the economy in the years to come.
There are several great resources on the web to learn about synthetic biology and keep abreast of the latest developments. In addition to sites such as syntheticbiology.org, I present below a blogroll of great sites to visit for anybody interested in this amazing field. (Image above is modified from synthetic biology.org; I claim no rights to this image). Of course, I haven't included my own blog, even thought I already have several posts about synthetic biology (for example, my article about DNA synthesis)
My Top Three:
Part of the scientific american family of blogs, Oscillator mostly focuses on Synthetic Biology and is a great resource for interesting articles and news about the field. I especially like some of the perspectives given by the main author Chistina Agapakis (whom you can follow on Twitter).
Peccoud Lab Journal Club Page
For the aficionado or seasoned expert, this is a great resource where recent papers about, or related to, synthetic biology are discussed. This is a great feature to have on a laboratory group website which deserves emulation by other scientists.
Dreamer Biologist's Blog
This blog, maintained by an undergraduate with a passion for biology (and synthetic biology in particular), features articles on a range of topics. He maintains a separate section with material solely devoted to synthetic biology (http://dreamerbiologist.wordpress.com/synbio/), and the title of the biology I think captures the essence of what this field is: a call for biologists to dream up novel solutions to real world problems, and imagine new technologies based upon the power of life.
Please continue reading the article to get my full list of synthetic biology blogs and sites (Click 'Read More'). They are really worth a read!
Do you know of a blog or site that I have missed? Please share the link and a description below by leaving a comment.
Other Synthetic Biology Blogs:
Open Wet Ware Blogs:
Open Wet Ware is a sort of synthetic biology hub, which encourages scientists in the field to share information and resources. The main site is definitely worth a visit. Their blog section has a few entries, but there haven't been any recent updates in those blogs. Hopefully, more synthetic biologists will turn to blogging and fill the ranks.
While I don't agree with the aesthetics of this site (in part because my browser doesn't support a flash applet on their site), I do look forward to the content that comes from this team of synthetic biologists and artists (six of each), who explore concepts of design in the living system. Their 'About' page has a very succinct description of the site's purpose.
Synthetic Biology and Gene Synthesis
A blog with similar layout to my own, topics covered here are usually not restricted to synthetic biology and the design of artificial genetic networks (despite the name), but features interesting stories and perspectives nonetheless.
The world with synthetic biology
Unfortunately, this blog appears to have not been updated since 2012; however, I can certainly sympathize with the authors, as they are probably much too busy immersed in the exciting research of synthetic biology to blog about it!
University of Leicester iGEM team Blog
iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition, draws forth teams of synthetic biologists from around the world. Read here about the University of Leicester team project, which has been focused upon engineering microbes for the recycling, reusing, and repurposing of polystyrene.
Synthetic Biology in the News (Select Recent Articles):
Genetically engineered bacteria can be used to attack other bacteria
From The Economist, Oct 14 2013
Describes clever work from Dr. Chang at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore; engineering E. coli to destroy the biofilm of other bacterial species on contact.
Growing bacteria keep time, know their place
These articles, highlighting recent research, adds a new dimension to synthetic biologists working on pattern formation. It's also a nice example of how synthetic biology works as a traditional science as well: in addition to designing novel solutions to real world problems, this field can also led to a better understanding of the regulation of gene expression in microbes (For example, when designed, artificial genetic networks provide an unexpected result)
Scientists, students create genetically engineered artworks
From The India Express, Sunday Oct 6 2013
A story about a iGEM team project, in which bacteria where engineered to produce geosmin, the substance responsible for the pleasant smell of fresh rain on dry soil. (This bears some similarity to another past iGEM project, from a 2006 MIT team, in which E. coli were engineered to produce a banana or wintergreen smell. I actually attended iGEM 2006 as an interested spectator, and got to smell some of this bacteria; I can testify that they really were successful in producing the banana scent!)
Hidden Genetic Code for Better Designer Genes
From Science Daily, Sep 26 2013
An article that highlights the intersection of traditional molecular biology research (understanding factors that govern microbial gene expression) and how these advancements fuel the efforts of synthetic biologists.
Metabolically engineered E. coli producing phenol
From Eureka Alert
An example of synthetic biologists addressing an industrial problem by modifying E. coli metabolism. Industrial biotechnology, you might call it.
Introductory / Useful Articles:
The PLOS ONE Synthetic Biology Colelction: Six Years and Counting
Jean Peccoud and Mark Isalan (2012) PLoS One, Vol 7 No. 8
This article provides a summary for a collection of synthetic biology research recently complied by a PLoS One scientific journal. A great way to look back on the progress of synthetic biology over the past few years.
Synthetic biology as a source of global health innovation
Jenny Rooke (2013) Systems and Synthetic Biology, Vol 7 No. 3
Another great summary article, this time covering the different ways in which synthetic biology can deliver solutions to real world problems.
A survey of enabling technologies in synthetic biology
Linda Kahl and Drew Endy (2013) Journal of Biological Engineering, Vol 7 No. 13
This excellent article provides a summary for the tools and advancements within the field, and details how researchers are increasing their ability to program novel behaviors in microbes.