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Synthetic Biology: What Do You Mean?

Genome Alberta's Mike Spear was at the MaRS Centre symposium on synthetic biology that took place yesterday in Toronto and that got him wondering just what synthetic biology really is. He gives a rundown of different definitions of the field offered during the day. Those range from the short "synthetic biology aims to design and build new biological parts and systems or to modify existing ones to carry out novel tasks" to the bit more wordy "synthetic biology is a new approach to engineering biology, with an emphasis on technologies to write DNA. Recent advances make the de novo chemical synthesis of long DNA polymers routine and precise. Foundational work, including the standardization of DNA-encoded parts and devices, enables them to be combined to create programs to control cells."

How would you define synthetic biology?