Synthetic biology making strides in key applications

Dr Bryony Core
Synthetic biology making strides in key applications
Synthetic biology is making strides in key applications, armed with the ability to create materials never possible before.
Previously, IDTechEx have reported on the use of synthetic biology in biomanufacturing specialty chemicals and biobased polymers. The creation of novel materials such as specialty chemicals and biobased polymers is a key application of synthetic biology which can be exploited by any industry. For example, just last week, AMSilk, a supplier of synthetic spider silk, announced their partnership with Airbus to develop the company's BioSteel technology for use in the aerospace industry.
Moreover, IDTechEx are hosting the IDTechEx Business & Technology Insight Forums this December 4 - 6 in Cambridge, UK. IDTechEx Technology Analysts Dr Nadia Tsao and Dr Bryony Core will be leading the "Synthetic Biology for New Materials" forum which will introduce how synthetic biology works, and how it can be leveraged to engineer new materials. Other applications of synthetic biology covered at the forum include food, agriculture, and human therapeutics.
The application of synthetic biology to create novel forms of human therapeutics has been moving forward with leaps and bounds. Several firsts have been achieved over the past year, including the first FDA and EMA approvals of personalized cell therapy for the treatment of a number of blood cancers. Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), developed by Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, reprograms a patient's own T cells to fight cancer. The therapy has received regulatory approval in the US, and in August 2018, in the EU as well. In fact, there are 2 chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapies on the market today, as Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) from Gilead Sciences, has also received regulatory approval from the FDA and the EMA. Both companies plan on building new manufacturing plants in the EU to support this demand for personalized cell therapies.
Another first is the FDA approval of Onpattro (patisiran), a RNAi therapy for rare disease hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis in adults, developed by Alnylam. RNAi, or RNA interference technology, works by blocking the RNA that transcribes defective proteins. However, this technology may soon be overtaken by CRISPR.
No article on synthetic biology is complete without mentioning powerful gene editing technology CRISPR. Although research groups in China have already been testing CRISPR in humans, Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics are the first to begin a company-backed human CRISPR trial. Vertex and CRISPR Therapeutics' CTX001 is a personalized cell therapy which is edited outside of the human body using CRISPR. The new trial will be tested in 12 adult patients with beta thalassemia at a single site in Germany.
To find out more about synthetic biology, please refer to the IDTechEx report, Synthetic Biology 2018. IDTechEx's report Biobased Polymers 2018 - 2023 is particularly relevant to those who are interested in the materials applications of synthetic biology. Finally, details of the IDTechEx forum on synthetic biology can be found here.