The moment we’ve all been waiting for – after two-and-a-half years, the synthetic biology industry gathered again in person at the Global Synthetic Biology Conference organized by Built with Biology. This year’s event, held on April 12-14, was packed with big-picture ideas, inspiring talks, and networking opportunities.
To say there was pent-up excitement is an understatement – the Oakland Marriott was buzzing with chatter and people exchanging ideas and contacts for three full days. The halls were lit up by colorful, futuristic displays featuring the latest synthetic biology tools and end-products: from cutting-edge instrumentation and automation to bioluminescent plants and skis made from algae.
The diversity of applications showcased at the conference is a testament to the endless ways biology promises to revolutionize the way materials are made, food is cultivated, and products are built. The question on everyone’s mind – can we do this faster, cheaper, and more efficiently, so that these solutions become part of our lives sooner?
During the three days of the conference, we were treated to engaging discussions from some of the most recognized names in synthetic biology. Companies like Ginkgo, Amyris, Twist Bioscience, and Codex DNA all shared their views on what we can do to bring that vision to reality. New synbio entrepreneurs and startups also delivered exciting new perspectives and pushed the boundaries of what is possible with biology.
Perhaps not surprisingly, longtime Google CEO Eric Schmidt delivered a compelling talk on some of the key challenges facing synthetic biology and the need for partnering with leaders in the public and private sectors to bring new ideas to life. One challenge in particular stood out: the need for effective platforms to help the best ideas and research efforts scale. Building on this theme, Inscripta hosted a plenary session with VP Nandini Krishnamurthy and CEO of Infinome Biosciences, Richard Fox, who discussed improving the efficiency and scaling of engineering biology workflows using a “lean bioengineering” model.
There are inherent inefficiencies in the current workflows for engineering microbes that are built on low-throughput, labor-intensive methods that have a relatively low success rate. Methods like adaptive laboratory evolution (ALE) and random mutagenesis are used to create genetic diversity in a completely random way. Contrary to that, the Onyx® platform delivers what one of our customers, Ginkgo Bioworks, has called “smart diversity” – where the edits are precisely designed and provide a higher probability of success. This is why Infinome has adopted the Onyx platform into their workflows – it allows them to go after many different targets in parallel and achieve significant progress in a short amount of time.
In addition to celebrating the progress the synbio industry has made over the last decade, there was a palpable sense of urgency to address the global challenges we face. On the last day of the conference, five hundred students and aspiring synthetic biologists joined the “Race Against the Clock” to learn about what is happening in the field and bring a fresh perspective and excitement about tackling current problems using biology.
The next generation of scientists and budding entrepreneurs are asking the critical questions, like: “Can we meet our emissions goals faster?” or “What are the most impactful technologies that we need to invest in?” or “How can we democratize genome engineering and broaden representation in this field?” It's encouraging to see their enthusiasm and desire to learn about the latest technologies: CRISPR is no longer a tool used exclusively by universities and research labs that have access to expensive licenses. High schoolers, for example, are now able to perform CRISPR experiments in AP Biology classes. It’s this need for making advanced genome engineering more accessible that drove the development of tools like the Onyx software.
If this year’s Built With Biology conference is any indication, the future of synthetic biology is looking as bright as ever. The synbio community – from investors and policy-makers to experienced researchers and students – continues to inspire and push the envelope. Inscripta is doing its part by staying committed to our mission of making genome engineering more accessible. To learn more about how Inscripta is doing that, visit our website at inscripta.com.