Synthetic Biology - Redrawing the Drug Discovery Map

Synthetic Biology is a powerful new tool in scientists' hands due to the recent advances in

bioinformatics, DNA sequencing, and synthetic genomics. It covers a wide range of molecular

activities involving the engineering of biological systems, manipulates chemicals, produces

energy, maintains cell environment, and enhances human health. Synthetic biology thus aims

to design and build new biological products and organisms to gain medical advantages. The

most recent example of synthetic biology is the development of mRNA-based COVID-19

vaccine, BNT162b2 by BioNTech.

As the healthcare industry turns its attention towards precision medicine and personalized

treatments for specific health conditions, synbio focuses on new microbe-based drugs and

artificial proteins for delivering medications to cells. This technique is used to generate DNA

fragments, expression vectors, or variant libraries cost-effectively and quickly.

Unlike earlier times where DNA sequence had to be cut and pasted out of an organism and put into another, synthetic biology makes it possible for you to just type your required DNA

sequence into a computer or copy it from a database. You can even select it from a catalog and then order it over the internet!

The DNA sequence may be copied from nature, but the DNA itself is made by a machine. There is an increased demand for such technologies in pharma and biotech due to the error-reduction methods that can boost accuracy to levels seen in natural polymerases and benchtop systems. Dozens of DNA fragments can now be made overnight using these techniques and result in synthesized clones and variant libraries for discovery biology, protein and antibody engineering, epitope mapping, and more.

The bug is the new drug.

Synthetic biology is playing a significant role in microbial-based therapeutics to bring out more efficacious drugs. New therapeutics are being developed based on living microbes. For

example, at CHAIN Biotech, a particular strain of Clostridium bacteria that is naturally found in

gut bacteria is now being engineered to transport drugs in the form of peptide, metabolites, or

enzymes. These are administered as capsules to be taken orally so that chronic and debilitating diseases are associated with the gut. Taking this in a tablet form makes it simple to administer and improves patient compliance.

QR code for DNA.

Octant uses synbio technologies to engage in drug discovery. It genetically engineers DNA to

act as an identifier for the most common drug receptors inside the human genome. It is

something like creating QR codes inside our genome to identify how different protein receptors act as biological sensors. This will help control many issues like immune responses, how pain is interpreted by our brains, and even the release of hormones and communications between cells in the body.

Targeted Vaccines

Prokarium, a developer of targeted vaccines and cancer immunotherapies, uses a technology

platform based on synthetically engineered bacteria. This microbial cancer immunotherapy's

beauty is that Onconella™ strain, which is a particular bacterium developed by the company,

acts by identifying the solid tumor, targeting it, and then colonizing it to exert its therapeutic