Perspective abstract

Nature Biotechnology 27, 1139 - 1150 (2009)
Published online: 9 December 2009 | doi:10.1038/nbt.1591

Next-generation synthetic gene networks

Timothy K Lu1,2,3, Ahmad S Khalil3 & James J Collins3,4

Synthetic biology is focused on the rational construction of biological systems based on engineering principles. During the field's first decade of development, significant progress has been made in designing biological parts and assembling them into genetic circuits to achieve basic functionalities. These circuits have been used to construct proof-of-principle systems with promising results in industrial and medical applications. However, advances in synthetic biology have been limited by a lack of interoperable parts, techniques for dynamically probing biological systems and frameworks for the reliable construction and operation of complex, higher-order networks. As these challenges are addressed, synthetic biologists will be able to construct useful next-generation synthetic gene networks with real-world applications in medicine, biotechnology, bioremediation and bioenergy.

  1. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
  2. Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
  3. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Center for BioDynamics, and Center for Advanced Biotechnology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
  4. Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Correspondence to: Timothy K Lu1,2,3 e-mail:


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