John Young, the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, wants DSB members to “survey” developments in biotechnology and “attempt to project transition paths from research into current and future defense applications,” according to a June 11 memo Young sent to the panel’s chairman.
There is no agreed definition of synthetic biology, but it is best understood as the deliberate design of biological systems and living organisms using engineering principles.
The technological manipulation of life was first advocated at the turn of the last century and was instrumental in shaping the rise of molecular biology. However, the widespread use of the term has only occurred since the mid-2000s, as the field has emerged owing to the falling cost of gene sequencing and synthesis. The aims of synthetic biology include: 1) the production of minimal living genomes; 2) the design of interchangeable parts that can be assembled into pathways for the fabrication of novel components; 3) the construction of entirely artificial cells; and 4) the creation of synthetic biomolecules.