ABSTRACT: Biological research is experiencing an increasing focus on the application of knowledge rather than on its generation. Thanks to the increased understanding of cellular systems and technological advances, biologists are more frequently asking not only 'how can I understand the structure and behaviour of this biological system?', but also 'how can I apply that knowledge to generate novel functions in different biological systems or in other contexts?' Active pursuit of the latter has nurtured the emergence of synthetic biology. Here, we discuss the motivation behind, and foundational technologies enabling, the development of this nascent field. We examine some early successes and applications while highlighting the challenges involved. Finally, we consider future directions and mention non-scientific considerations that can influence the field's growth.
Journal of The Royal Society Interface 09/2007; 4(15):607-23. · 4.40 Impact Factor