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Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2014 Apr;15(4):289-94. doi: 10.1038/nrm3767. Epub 2014 Mar 12.

Realizing the potential of synthetic biology.

Author information

  • 1Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
  • 2Division of Biology and Biological Engineering and Department of Applied Physics, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), M/C 114-96, Pasadena, California 91125, USA.
  • 3Stanford University School of Medicine, 473 Via Ortega, University of Stanford, Stanford, California 94305, USA.
  • 4Synthetic Biology Center, Department of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 500 Technology Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
  • 5Synthetic Biology Center, Department of Biological Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), NE47-223, 500 Technology Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Synthetic biology, despite still being in its infancy, is increasingly providing valuable information for applications in the clinic, the biotechnology industry and in basic molecular research. Both its unique potential and the challenges it presents have brought together the expertise of an eclectic group of scientists, from cell biologists to engineers. In this Viewpoint article, five experts discuss their views on the future of synthetic biology, on its main achievements in basic and applied science, and on the bioethical issues that are associated with the design of new biological systems.

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