Synthetic biology advances and applications in the biotechnology industry: a perspective

Leonard Katz, Yvonne Y. Chen, Ramon Gonzalez, Todd C. Peterson, Huimin Zhao, Richard H. Baltz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Synthetic biology is a logical extension of what has been called recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology or genetic engineering since the 1970s. As rDNA technology has been the driver for the development of a thriving biotechnology industry today, starting with the commercialization of biosynthetic human insulin in the early 1980s, synthetic biology has the potential to take the industry to new heights in the coming years. Synthetic biology advances have been driven by dramatic cost reductions in DNA sequencing and DNA synthesis; by the development of sophisticated tools for genome editing, such as CRISPR/Cas9; and by advances in informatics, computational tools, and infrastructure to facilitate and scale analysis and design. Synthetic biology approaches have already been applied to the metabolic engineering of microorganisms for the production of industrially important chemicals and for the engineering of human cells to treat medical disorders. It also shows great promise to accelerate the discovery and development of novel secondary metabolites from microorganisms through traditional, engineered, and combinatorial biosynthesis. We anticipate that synthetic biology will continue to have broadening impacts on the biotechnology industry to address ongoing issues of human health, world food supply, renewable energy, and industrial chemicals and enzymes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-461
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Biosensors
  • Biotechnology industry
  • CRISPR/Cas9
  • Combinatorial biosynthesis
  • DNA assembly
  • DNA synthesis
  • Mammalian cells
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Natural products
  • Synthetic biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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