Synthetic Biology Design as a Paradigm Shift toward Manufacturing Affordable Adeno-Associated Virus Gene Therapies

ACS Synth Biol. 2023 Jan 20;12(1):17-26. doi: 10.1021/acssynbio.2c00589. Epub 2023 Jan 10.


Gene therapy has demonstrated enormous potential for changing how we combat disease. By directly engineering the genetic composition of cells, it provides a broad range of options for improving human health. Adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) represent a leading gene therapy vector and are expected to address a wide range of conditions in the coming decade. Three AAV therapies have already been approved by the FDA to treat Leber's congenital amaurosis, spinal muscular atrophy, and hemophilia B. Yet these therapies cost around $850,000, $2,100,000, and $3,500,000, respectively. Such prices limit the broad applicability of AAV gene therapy and make it inaccessible to most patients. Much of this problem arises from the high manufacturing costs of AAVs. At the same time, the field of synthetic biology has grown rapidly and has displayed a special aptitude for addressing biomanufacturing problems. Here, we discuss emerging efforts to apply synthetic biology design to decrease the price of AAV production, and we propose that such efforts could play a major role in making gene therapy much more widely accessible.

Keywords: adeno-associated virus; biomanufacturing; gene therapy; nanotechnology; viral vectors.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Dependovirus* / genetics
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • Humans
  • Synthetic Biology*