John Cumbers, founder of SynBioBeta, introduced today’s biofuels and renewable chemicals track at the 2017 BIO International Convention with the question, What’s Your Bio Strategy, which is also the title of his forthcoming book. His point is that industrial biotechnology, synthetic biology and new techniques such as CRISPR will disrupt industries in the very near future. A strategy for adopting and adapting to biotechnology is as necessary for the future as a strategy for information technology is today.
The track continued with a session on the “synthetic biology revolution,” which was described by Jason Kelly, co-founder of Gingko Bioworks, as the rapid growth in capability and reduction of costs in reading DNA, writing DNA and automating lab work. Synthetic biology is leading to applications in food, materials, and healthcare. Kelly brought an example of the materials applications, showing off a necktie made from spider silk produced by California-based Bolt Threads.
While companies making spider silk or lab grown leather are still in the start-up phase, more mature companies have used synthetic biology to make fragrances, flavors and other renewable chemicals that are now reaching consumers. California-based Amyris has operated a production plant in Brazil for the past five years, producing farnesene for cosmetics. The company is currently expanding the plant to increase production and enable production of other renewable chemicals. Similarly, Swiss-based Evolva is producing a stevia flavoring that makes zero calorie soft drinks possible.
BIO’s 2017 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology will feature additional conversation about synthetic biology and gather more of the companies and emerging techniques in the field.