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Nat Chem Biol. 2007 Sep;3(9):521-5.

Synthetic biology: lessons from the history of synthetic organic chemistry.

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Chemistry and Chemical Biology Graduate Program, University of California, San Francisco, 600-16th Street, San Francisco, California 94158-2517, USA.


The mid-nineteenth century saw the development of a radical new direction in chemistry: instead of simply analyzing existing molecules, chemists began to synthesize them--including molecules that did not exist in nature. The combination of this new synthetic approach with more traditional analytical approaches revolutionized chemistry, leading to a deep understanding of the fundamental principles of chemical structure and reactivity and to the emergence of the modern pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The history of synthetic chemistry offers a possible roadmap for the development and impact of synthetic biology, a nascent field in which the goal is to build novel biological systems.

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