Charting the Future of Synthetic Biology

Accomplished plant biotechnology professional Thomas Brutnell serves as the vice president of Gateway Biotechnology, where he oversees the transition from drug discovery to product development. He also founded Viridis Genomics Consulting to help bridge the divide between academic and industry science. As a geneticist and molecular engineer Thomas Brutnell has a broad range of interests that includes C4 photosynthesis, breeding, plant tissue culture, and synthetic biology.

The 20-year-old field of synthetic biology promises a future of exciting advances. Potential future advances in synthetic biology include fire-resistant lumber produced from genetically engineered trees, modified organs that are less likely to be rejected, and synthetic microbes that are capable of detecting an impending attack by disease organisms.

On June 19, 2019, the Engineering Biology Research Consortium, an initiative funded in part by the National Science Foundation, created a roadmap towards the future of synthetic biology. The Consortium agreed that synthetic biology is mature enough to offer solutions to a wide range of societal challenges.

More than 80 engineers and scientists from diverse disciplines and different universities and companies collaborated to provide a strong case to demonstrate the need for the federal government to invest in synthetic biology. With all the avenues that are open for biotechnological development, America should be at the forefront of these developments. The Consortium believes that now is the time to make synthetic biology a federal priority.

The roadmap serves as a guide for where synthetic biology should aim over the next two decades. It will also guide government investments, particularly those that relate to the spectrum of the Department of National Defense, Department of Energy, and National Institutes of Health.

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