JUL 19 - 01
FEATURE OF THE MONTH
The Economist paints a world where synthetic biology bears the potential to change mankind’s foremost problems for good
We at Cc discovered with excitement that the renowned weekly magazine The Economist has dedicated an entire cover story to the field of synthetic biology and its potential to change mankind’s foremost problems such as hunger, epidemics and terminal illness for good. Under the title “Redesigning life – The promise of synthetic biology”, Oliver Morton, the article’s author, gives a deep dive into the synthetic biology industry and provides his readers with a detailed picture of the risks, yet even bigger chances that synthetic biology might have in store for us. Synthetic biology is commonly defined as designing and constructing biological modules, biological systems and biological machines or as re-design of existing biological systems for useful purposes. Morton approaches this complex and highly polarizing topic in a didactically helpful and relatable way by tracing all the way back to the history of Indians who live today a worthy life also thanks to their alliance with nature. Put differently, what synthetic biology tries to do is, according to the author, not novel. In contrast, he shows that such steps – albeit on a lesser scale – have already been taken at myriad points in time in human history. By doing so, Morton argues that synthetic biology is not about exploiting or going against (our) nature, but that it is rather about siding with and learning from nature for our all sake.
We at Cc are thrilled by The Economist’s initiative to provide such a prominent stage to the field of synthetic biology for two reasons. First, the article underpins the unparalleled potential of the segment – which includes, amongst other, new gene-editing technologies, cheaper DNA synthesis and machine learning – to sustainably respond to our world’s most pressing issues by means of real, scientific breakthrough innovations. Second, the article’s author has put a lot of efforts into the reasoning and editing of the quite complicated topic of synthetic biology. Especially the latter question of how to communicate controversial, yet indispensable scientific ideas to a larger, potentially defensive lay public in a comprehensible way is very dear to our heart and forms the cornerstone of many projects at Cc. We thus look all the more forward to meeting up and exchanging with Oliver Morton at the upcoming industry fair SynBioBeta, that kindly made us discover The Economist’s article in the first place.