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Synthetic biology is based on the application of systems design to complex biological processes. It is a truly emerging area with high scientific and technological potential. The field opens up the possibility of manipulating living systems and their component parts in a rational way, akin to the way in which engineers design new machines, cars or planes. Although we are far away from this point, this is clearly where synthetic biology will ultimately lead us.
As such, the goal of this NEST Pathfinder initiative is to stimulate forward-looking cross-disciplinary research to demonstrate the key principles as well as to generate the tools and parts to progress the field of synthetic biology in Europe.
Only a small number of research centres explicitly use the term �synthetic biology� to describe their work. However, this area is of enormous strategic and economic significance, representing an arena in which scientific knowledge will be progressively embedded in technological solutions. Europe must invest in this development in order to build up the necessary intellectual and physical structures to capture a share of the valuable intellectual property that is at stake.
The key idea behind synthetic biology is that of a �hierarchical module-based� approach, which views sub-cellular biology as a system of interacting modules, such as DNA elements as functional parts, signaling pathways as functional entities, and cell metabolism as a molecular conversion tool. Evidence to date suggests that these basic modules are relatively small in number and broadly similar in basic characteristics across different organisms, although with substantial variation in their specifics.

Additional information

Authors: No Author stated, European Commission, DG Research, Brussels (BE)
Bibliographic Reference: EUR 22426 EN (2007), 41 pp. Free of charge
Availability: Katalogue Number: KI-NA-22426-EN-C The paper version can be ordered online and the PDF version downloaded at:
ISBN: ISBN: 92-79-03832-X
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