Post #922 

Synthetic Biology May Disrupt Your Client’s Industry.

What would you say to one of your best clients when they ask, “What do you know about synthetic biology?”  I’ll bet shrugging your shoulders isn’t going to cut it.

At a fundamental level, synthetic biology (or syn-bio) is the synthesis of complex, biologically based systems, which display functions that do not exist in nature. According to Meagan Lizarazo, at iGEM, a non-profit foundation advancing syn-bio innovation, it is a $40 billion industry.

For an insightful perspective one could turn to Dr. Alison McLennan, author of 'Regulation of Synthetic Biology.' Alison explores the interplay between regulation and emerging technologies in the context of syn-bio, a field that has already yielded biofuels and medicines made with designer micro-organisms. For law firms this field offers opportunities to help clients in intellectual property; environmental; regulatory; risk assessment; biosafety and biosecurity among other areas. For clients, such legal challenges related to biotechnology will be unfamiliar, and strategies relied upon by traditional biotechnology companies may not be a good fit.

Synthetic Biology represents what I have come to label a TECH-DRIVEN HYBRID in that it can be a technology disruptor to many conventional industries such that if you are serving clients in a particular industry, you do not want to be the attorney who is asked “What do you know about Synthetic Biology?” and not have an answer. According to the Boston Consulting Group, “CEOs the world over must come to grips with this fascinating technology right away, especially since business and science have tended to operate in separate spheres UNTIL NOW.”

Here are some brief examples where the application of engineering principles to biology via manipulation of DNA are already having an impact:
• Industrial Chemicals – engineering bacteria to produce paints / adhesives / cleaners
• BioFuels – new renewable energy sources from microbes
• Bio-Leaching – extract metals from underground deposits using microorganisms
• Software – more efficiently designed DNA sequencing (e.g. CRISPR editing)
• AgriBusiness – enzymes to improve crop yields / pest resistance
• Consumer Products – manufacturing bacteria capable of producing collagen which is then bundled to produce a leather hide
• Synthetic Meats – with over 70 companies experiencing rapid growth
• Food and Drink – production of synthetic wine without grapes
• HealthCare – discovery of new pharmaceuticals, treatment diagnostics

This particular micro-niche even has its own annual international forum for experts engaged in syn-bio research, commercialization, investment and policymaking. SynBiTech 2022 will be held this June in London, focused on key opportunities and challenges for building a multibillion-dollar industry. The previous event included over 60 presenters … not a single lawyer at the podium — a true sign of this still being an “emerging” micro-niche opportunity.

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