Synthetic biology: advancing the design of diverse genetic systems

Annu Rev Chem Biomol Eng. 2013;4:69-102. doi: 10.1146/annurev-chembioeng-061312-103351. Epub 2013 Feb 13.


A major objective of synthetic biology is to make the process of designing genetically encoded biological systems more systematic, predictable, robust, scalable, and efficient. Examples of genetic systems in the field vary widely in terms of operating hosts, compositional approaches, and network complexity, ranging from simple genetic switches to search-and-destroy systems. While significant advances in DNA synthesis capabilities support the construction of pathway- and genome-scale programs, several design challenges currently restrict the scale of systems that can be reasonably designed and implemented. Thus, while synthetic biology offers much promise in developing systems to address challenges faced in the fields of manufacturing, environment and sustainability, and health and medicine, the realization of this potential is currently limited by the diversity of available parts and effective design frameworks. As researchers make progress in bridging this design gap, advances in the field hint at ever more diverse applications for biological systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bioengineering* / methods
  • Bioengineering* / trends
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • DNA / genetics
  • Genome / physiology
  • Humans
  • Synthetic Biology* / methods
  • Synthetic Biology* / trends


  • DNA