Silver: Synthetic Biology
Synthetic biology is a new discipline focused on design and construction of synthetic genomes and programmed cells through cycles of computer modeling, assembly, and testing. This paradigm is based, in part, on that for microchip design, in which the behavior of a chip is first modeled on a computer before test manufacture.
Synthetic biology is the creation and study of artificial biological systems. The goal of synthetic biology is not to understand the natural world, but to develop tools for constructing organisms. Such organisms could be used as rationally constructed and safe vaccines, or to clean up oil spills and then die, or to sense the presence of a molecule and generate a readout.
Synthetic biology has become feasible, in part, because of the rapidly decreasing cost of DNA synthesis and sequencing and the ability to create libraries of standardized parts. Commercial plasmid synthesis companies will now construct large pieces of DNA at continually cheaper prices, so that the contract-synthesis of an entire bacterial genome is feasible at costs comparable to the pre-clinical development of a drug. Synthetic biology seeks to develop the conceptual tools to use this capability.
Current experiments in this laboratory include the construction of a cellular oscillator based on nuclear/cytoplasmic localization and a lifespan counter for analyzing cellular aging.