Six products that are changing our world by 2030
Later City News: Synthetic biology will transform how we grow food, what we eat, and where we source materials and medicines. Here I have selected six products that are now on the market, highlighting the underlying technologies and projecting forward to the future that can be expected over the next ten years.
A paper recently published by 'Nature Communications' claims that products from synthetic biology are rapidly permeating society and by 2030, it is highly likely that you will have eaten, worn, used or been treated with one.
“The time has come for synthetic biologists to develop more real-world applications […] the field has had its hype phase, now it needs to deliver.” So concluded an infamous article in 2010. Early research struggled to design cells and physically build DNA with pre-2010 projects often failing due to uncertainty and variability. Since then, rapid technological advances occurred that are well-reviewed in this series of commentaries.
While there are many biotechnology, pharmaceutical and agriculture companies, I selected those products that best highlight the application of synthetic biology tools developed 2000–2020 and are available now or by early 2021. The first three represent chemicals produced by engineered cells or enzymes (leghemoglobin, sitgaliptin, diamines) that are isolated and purified. For the second three, the products are the engineered cells themselves (engineered bacteria, CAR-Ts, genome edited soy). The development of these was enabled by advances in metabolic engineering, directed evolution (awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize), automated strain engineering, metagenomic discovery, gene circuit design, and genome editing (awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize).