Targeting environmental pollution with engineered microbial systems à la carte
Synthetic Biology deals with the rational combination of biological properties with central elements of engineering design. We argue that by merging the genetic tool box already available with disciplines such as electrical, mechanical, or chemical engineering and computer sciences, there is an extraordinary opportunity to take a fresh approach to longstanding environmental pollution problems through a vigorous application of modelling techniques and organizing the development of novel biological (e.g. catalytic) systems along a hierarchical architecture with defined and standardized interfaces. However, this endeavour faces 3 major bottlenecks that this Coordination Action attempts to overcome: [i] The scientific and technical communities of european contributors to the application of SB to environmental issues (i.e., Environmental Biotechnologists, Bioinformaticians and experts on the Origin-of-Life subject) have so far failed to recognise their latent capacity to shape a fresh discipline at their very interface, [ii] The new field still misses a comprehensive language and a shared conceptual frame for description of minimally functional biological parts (specifically dealing with catalytic properties and regulatory circuits) and [iii] The development of the SB field touches upon social sensitivities related to recreating life-in-the-test-tube, which threats with a re-enactment of the controversy on GMOs and thus it worries off the needed industrial ease in the field. To tackle all these challenges, TARPOL proposes a dynamic 2-year programme of activities, run by a large collection of stakeholders in the field and aimed at coordinating the so far fragmented efforts to direct this emerging discipline into the most industrially beneficial and socially viable directions.
Vitor Martins dos Santos
Universitat de Valencia (ES)