Institute Fellow on “Programming Life” Panel

in Institute News, Significant Bits
June 10th, 2013

Institute Junior Fellow, Doug Densmore, participates in a Discover Magazine panel on “Programming Life: The Revolutionary Potential of Synthetic Biology”. The panel was held at the Stanley Hall Auditorium, University of California at Berkeley, on March 25, 2013.

Just as today’s engineers design integrated circuits based on the known physical properties of materials and use them to create electronic devices with amazing capabilities, tomorrow’s synthetic biologists are poised to design and build biological systems that are custom-tailored to make a better world. Engineered life could lead to improved human health, a safer food supply, and a cleaner, more abundant supply of energy. Unlike many other areas of engineering, biology is incredibly non-linear. That poses a challenge: Unleashing its potential will require a broad and sustained effort, drawing on great minds from multiple disciplines. But the payoff could be huge, as synthetic biology is poised to make the kind of leaps in the 21st century that computer technology made in the 20th.

Among the topics our expert panel discussed:
  • Near-term applications of synthetic biology for creating new drugs, chemicals, and fuels.
  • The social and economic implications of synthetic biology.
  • Ethical and environmental challenges of synthetic biology.
  • Training tomorrow’s innovators in synthetic biology.
  • Future possibilities—a look ahead at what might be possible 20 years from now.