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Synthetic Biology has great potential to transform health and the environment


By way of introduction, I am scientist with 20 years of experience at the lab bench. Most of my research has been working with bacterial pathogens and trying to understand how they cause disease, resist antibiotics and evade the immune system. To accomplish this goal, we use molecular biology and recombinant DNA approaches to engineer these strains to answer basic research questions. These methods are the same tools needed for synthetic biology, which is the use of an engineering and design approach to create new cell lines with new features and to create new biotechnologies.

The path of drug discovery is long, possibly as long as your career. Although it is possible to discover a new antibiotic to combat infections, there is a tremendous regulatory process to bring that drug to market. In my career, I have known very few scientists to complete this cycle. This is one of the reasons I am attracted to synthetic biology, where the time needed to create something is very short, on the order of a few weeks in the lab. We are just beginning to consider the ethical implications of using synthetic biology, so it is hard to say how and when these technologies will be of use in the market. In my opinion, with access to new technologies such as next generation sequencing and custom DNA synthesis, the rapid pace of discovery will force the system to catch up and establish the appropriate ethics and guidelines to bring these technologies online.

The goal of this blog is to discuss new ideas and discoveries that arise in the area of synthetic biology. The focus will be those ideas that will help us clean up and protect our environment, and also to maintain and improve our health. I also hope to educate the non-scientists on some of the details regarding the science behind synthetic biology. We will explore the science of Canadian and international researchers who are working in this area, and the various entrepreneurial communities developing around the science of synthetic biology.

As a final thought, I am not one who proposes that new technologies will save us from our human-imposed environmental and health crises. There are some who are eternal optimists with a touch of denial believing that all will be sorted out in the future, with the advent of new technology. In fact, I often think that many of our problems could be avoided or mitigated or even solved  by changing our behaviour, changing our conditioning and ways of safely living with the status quo. While the ideas presented on this blog may have potential to help solve some of major challenges, this is only one piece of the puzzle. Human beings must ultimately wake up and exercise a higher level of awareness expressed through our thoughts, words and actions, so that when we look back on the past, we have pride in what was accomplished.


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About the Author

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I love using genomics, synthetic and molecular biology to engineer microbes. I am excited about the potential of synthetic biology to create new technologies with massively transformative potential.


  1. Jeroen

    Promising start. Looking forward to more posts.
    May I suggest an action point: you should get UofC to purchase access to ACS Synthetic Biology.

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