Synthetic biology UPSC: Relevance
- GS 3: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.
Synthetic biology policy: Context
- Recently, Department of Biotechnology has released a draft foresight paper on synthetic biology and has stressed upon the need for a national policy that can consolidate India’s stand on the issue.
What is synthetic biology?
- Synthetic biology meaning: Synthetic biology refers to the science of using genetic sequencing, editing, and modification to create unnatural organisms or organic molecules that can function in living systems.
- Synthetic biology enables scientists to design and synthesise new sequences of DNA from scratch.
Synthetic biology applications
- The applications of synthetic biology ranges from developing synthetic organisms for vaccination to creating natural products in a lab such as vanillin, (the organic compound extracted from vanilla seeds), which can now be grown in yeasts with additional plant genomes.
- Pharmaceutical industry: Synthetic biology can be used to make natural compounds such as artemisinin that is used for the treatment of malaria and Car T cell therapy for cancer treatment.
- Fashion industry: Some companies are exploring the possibility of dyeing jeans without producing hazardous waste.
- Agriculture: Companies are also delivering fixed nitrogen to plants instead of using fertilisers, engineering microbes to create food additives or brew proteins.
Policy on synthetic biology: Why needed?
- Rapid growth: Synthetic biology is rapidly evolving with new discoveries happening every year; thus, it is time to create a policy for synthetic biology now more than ever. Soon we will start to see some products and we need to be ready with the regulatory framework.
- Risk vs benefits: There is also a need to look at the benefits of the products and the risk it poses to biodiversity.
Synthetic biology in India
- India is rich in biodiversity. Though a benefit, synthetic biology can also have adverse impacts such as escaping into the environment and recombining with existing biodiversity.
- All these prospects have to be studied before devising a policy on synthetic biology.