Drew Endy, a professor of Bioengineering at Stanford and one of the leaders in Synthetic Biology, discusses his philosophy on how he makes decisions about whether or not biology should be altered, the history of genetic engineering and synthetic biology and what lies ahead in the future.
“Its not me making things, its biology making things. Its already taken over the planet. We have a distributed manufacturing platform that’s capable of putting atoms in precise positions.”
Engineering is not just about solving problems, but also about getting better at solving problems. Endy describes the progression of engineering electrical computer systems and explains how 70 years ago our capabilities were limited but now are quite advanced. Now he believes it is time to get good at engineering something else, like matter.
When Endy met with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and they talked about how they would simplify engineering biology. Some of his plans for the future were to improve at printing DNA and abstract biological complexity. These goals have come to fruition with the continuously decreasing prices of base pairs and the development of software like Genome Compiler that allow you to design DNA just by clicking your mouse.
Lastly, he discusses the conflict of whether or not synthetic biology research should be pursued because of its potential to be abused and used for harm. In the past this has limited funding, but through global recognition with programs like iGEM the future for synthetic biology looks bright.
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