Synthetic Biology: Enter the Living Machine

March 8, 2017

(Nature) – In 2000, two landmark papers started a revolution in our ability to design entirely new functions inside cells. The authors took two electronic circuits — an oscillator and a switch — and built the equivalent from living matter. Life became a machine. To many, including me, this was a profound moment: the beginning of the field of synthetic biology. Now an international enterprise with the potential to transform our lives, synthetic biology crosses age and organizational boundaries, and involves large corporations, small start-ups, academics and tinkerers. In Synthetic, talented science historian Sophia Roosth describes her observations of the field’s early evolution — the fruit of embedding herself in the working lives of synthetic biologists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

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