The Synthetic Biology mashup is a weekly review of articles and pieces of news related to synthetic biology. While we share most of this on our twitter feed, if you need to catch up on this week’s headlines just read on!
A research report titled “Synthetic Biology: A Global Strategic Business Report” was issued by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. . The report looks into the current trends, drivers, issues, and strategic activities of major synthetic biology companies worldwide. According to it, Europe represents the largest market, with countries like Germany, the UK, Japan, India and China becoming worldwide leaders. The most prominent sector are Energy and Chemicals. The interesting report goes into details about the prospect of artemisinin anti-malaria drug and genetically-engineered crops and biofuels and predicts the global synthetic biology market is to reach $12.9 B by 2018
MIT researchers have shown that they can turn genes on/off inside yeast and human cells by controlling when DNA is copied into messenger RNA (mRNA). The new method published in the latest issue of ACS Synthetic Biology is based on a system of viral proteins that can edit the genomes of bacterial and human cells, called CRISPR. CRISPR has been used in the past to cut pieces of a gene to disable it or replace it with a new gene. Timothy Lu and his team used the CRISPR system to control gene transcription, by changing it to act as a transcription factor, and discovered that it can both positively and negatively impact transcription. Furthermore, they incorporated a transcription-control system initiated by the addition of small sugars. This should not only allow a better understanding of the function of individual genes, but also make it easier to engineer cells that can monitor their environment, produce drugs or detect disease in eukaryotic cells.
A new biotech startup based in Frederick, Maryland, USA, RoosterBio Inc., is building a new synthetic biology regenerative medicine platform. Regenerative medicine refers to the medical therapies that will allow the body to repair, replace and restore damaged or diseased cells. This field has advanced slowly due to the high cost of living cells and the small size of samples currently available for research. RoosterBio aim is to manufacture large quantities of high quality standardized primary cells at low cost, which will lead to the minimisation of unexplained cellular events and will help innovations get out of labs into the clinics. The official product launch is expected in March 2014 for human bone marrow-derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells.
A new synthetic biology research project is to be undertaken in Arizona State University. The effort led by Karmella Haynes will be focusing on treatments for diabetes, a disease projected to afflict 300 million people worldwide by 2025 according to the WHO. Dr. Haynes will grow pancreatic cells in an artificial culture that will enable her to look at them in a three-dimensional view. The pancreas regulates blood sugar level happens through two different hormones. The lab will be designing synthetic proteins capable of tracking changes in the DNA of the pancreatic cells allowing to manipulate the state of cells and to maintain healthy pancreatic tissue.
This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked the 2006-founded start-up company 23andMe to stop selling all of its products. Google-backed 23andMe operates by doing personal genetic code reading using small saliva samples from its customers collected via a small kit sent at home currently retailing $99. Results predicts the potential development of a range of disease based on literature evidence and provides genealogy information. The company failed to give the FDA with proof on the accuracy of their methods, despite a long period of communication. As of today, 23andMe is still selling their kits online and has only addressed the issue through a short statement pointing to scheduling and organisation issues. If you want to read more, we recommend interesting article published this week in the New Yorker analyzing the case.
A new article describing how bacterial toxins were used to perform Boolean logic functions was published this week in Chemical Communications . Erwin Märtlbauer and his team from the University of Munich took the AND and OR gates to a new level by using membrane protein domains to produce different combinatorial and sequential logic operators. The team used a unique enterotoxin protein made of three parts, where each part must bind in a specific order to the cell membrane to cause cell death. The obligatory sequential binding of each part of the protein insures that cell death only occurs from the right order, providing memory to the biological logic gate.
This year has seen numerous projects trying to tackle health and medicine issues at the international Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM). This week, an article in SciDevNet summarises this year’s most successful projects trying to tackle questions aiding development. In the spotlight are two Indonesian teams, one targeted tuberculosis, a disease that annually kills 175000 people in Indonesia, and the other created a biosensor for aflatoxin, a food contaminant.
Synbio Consulting has been heavily involved in fostering the use of Synthetic Biology as a tool for development through a number of projects. This article highlights once more the power of synthetic biology to address glocal issues.
That’s it for this week’s Synthetic Biology Mashup! A suggestion or a question? Shoot us an email.