Synthetic biologists combine modular biological "parts" to create higher-order devices. Metabolic engineers construct biological "pipes" by optimizing the microbial conversion of basic substrates to desired compounds. Many scientists work at the intersection of these two philosophies, employing synthetic devices to enhance metabolic engineering efforts. These integrated approaches promise to do more than simply improve product yields; they can expand the array of products that are tractable to produce biologically. In this review, we explore the application of synthetic biology techniques to next-generation metabolic engineering challenges, as well as the emerging engineering principles for biological design.
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