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Tuesday 18 October 2011

A large portion of synthetic biology research is concerned with making tools. They apply complementary informatics, design, and genetic engineering approaches to the problem of genetic circuits.

Also, databases such as the Parts Registry encourage cataloguing such data. Finding enough genetic parts there for a novel function, however, is still a long way away.

Tools such as GenoCAD, ProMoT, and others allow user-friendly design of circuits, SynBioSS allows in silico chemical simulation of genetic circuits, and Clotho permits versatile data management.

The software projects are exciting because of what they would permit in the future; wet lab projects are exciting for what they allow now.

Labs are working on not only the characterization of basic parts—promoters, repressors, activators, and so on—but also advanced components: bistable switches, scaffolds, and metabolic pathways.

Though this research may seem purely foundational, it is done with numerous industrial uses in mind—these are engineers we’re talking about, after all.

Protein scaffolding was demonstrated in optimizing the mevalonate pathway, which is three steps in the synthesis of artemisinin, an antimalarial drug.