By Alexandre Mouradian, CEO, Founder and Chairman of eureKARE
Researchers around the globe are developing new ways to harness the power of nature, redesigning and engineering organisms to address the world’s most critical health, environmental and manufacturing challenges. This is synthetic biology (or ‘SynBio’).
To achieve the 2030 sustainability goals, some of the world’s largest companies have been turning to SynBio solutions to leverage their efforts.
Published recently in Fortune, François Candelon, managing director and senior partner at BCG, listed inspiring examples of how L’Oreal has put SynBio at the heart of their R&D efforts to reach important sustainability targets; BASF has partnered with LanzaTech to reduce manufacturing carbon emissions; and Sanofi has acquired multiple cell and gene therapy startups, taking its M&A investments since 2018 to over $30 billion.
While many big companies believe science is key to continue innovating and expanding (as is exemplified by substantial R&D budgets), I am convinced that SynBio tools have the potential to boost all areas of innovation.
Imagine being able to produce medicines, foods, textiles, fuels, and much more in a faster, sustainable and more economical way. SynBio tech enables us to! By redesigning organisms to improve their natural abilities, new products, technologies, and more efficient manufacturing processes may conquer the market. As stated in a McKinsey report, “a Bio Revolution is under way” and “by the confluence of progress and innovation in biological sciences and technology, this movement has the potential to help the world overcome its biggest challenges, from health to climate change”.
From gene-editing and cell-free tech, to artificial cells and DNA synthesis, advanced SynBio tools have the potential to boost innovation in a broad spectrum of impactful areas, including:
Scientists have created synthetic RNA to speed up vaccine development against infections, cancer, and other emerging conditions. To promote earlier disease detection and increased therapeutic efficacy, a German research group has developed a pioneering gene circuit technology with a preliminary focus on cancer. In Israel, a cell-free technology platform has been developed with the potential to revolutionize Pharma R&D.
Creating new biofuels and naturally-sourced electricity inch us closer to one of our key global objectives – carbon neutrality. We have seen genetically engineered microbes produce sustainable aviation fuels to reduce airline emissions. A recent project of Lanzatech and Danone has used SynBio and AI tools to convert carbon emissions into monoethylene glycol (MEG), a key building block for polyethylene terephthalate (PET), resin, fibers, and bottles. Bacteria can be engineered and be used as alarm-bell-ringing biosensors, emitting acoustic or a bioluminescent signal when sensing harmful pollutants. A SynBio-based DNA drive can store digital data at ultra-high density, with no energy input or CO2 emissions.
Genome editing has been applied to create hybrid crops that are more productive and resistant, as well as natural, super-powered fertilizers. We have also seen real vegan cheese based on sustainable, animal-free, cellular agriculture reaching the market, and plant-based burgers with soy legume hemoglobin from genetically enhanced yeasts to improve meaty flavors and aromas.
Engineered organisms and super-charged enzymes can capture existing CO2 or methane to create novel and improved biopolymers. These can also be produced by synthetic ribosomes that are able to replicate what highly specialized cells and organisms can do on a silicon chip. Synthetic human tissues like cartilage, liver and bones, can also be created using SynBio tools and 3D bio-printing.
As eureKARE’s Chairman, Founder and CEO, I believe we are only beginning to scratch the surface of what SynBio can achieve. I am seeing this firsthand as we continue to invest in disruptive SynBio innovation while cultivating a rare and diverse cross-sector portfolio of SynBio solutions, with focus on health, environment and sustainabilioty, and biomanufacturing.