Synthetic biology--a relatively new field which joins biology and engineering to create or change life forms--is catching the attention of venture capitalists looking for the next big thing. The potential upsides of such technology seem limitless. Synthetic biology could be used to create new drugs and medical devices, solve ecological problems and even create new organisms. Some of these possibilities are years away, of course, but the wide range of potential applications is a VC's dream come true.
"Synthetic biology is just biotechnology done better, faster and cheaper,"Talli Somekh of Musea Ventures tells CNN. "There's an element of irrational speculation about synthetic biology, because people seem to think that it's something entirely new and revolutionary. But the truth is that it's really just applying principles of disciplined construction to something that has for too long been a lab science."
In the near future, synthetic biology could greatly simplify some of the processes used in the biotech industry. Amyris Biotechnologies, for instance, is developing an anti-malaria treatment derived from a rare African tree. Rather than trying to cultivate the tree, Amyris is using synthetic biology to produce the derivative in the lab. That will make the drug more affordable and easier to produce--a combo that both drug developers and VCs love.
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