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Programming Life: The Revolutionary Potential of Synthetic Biology

Berkeley, CA  |  March 25, 2013

Stanley Hall Auditorium
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

Just as today’s engineers design integrated circuits based on the known physical properties of materials and use them to create electronic devices with amazing capabilities, tomorrow’s synthetic biologists are poised to design and build biological systems that are custom-tailored to make a better world. Engineered life could lead to improved human health, a safer food supply, and a cleaner, more abundant supply of energy.

Unlike many other areas of engineering, biology is incredibly non-linear. That poses a challenge: Unleashing its potential will require a broad and sustained effort, drawing on great minds from multiple disciplines. But the payoff could be huge, as synthetic biology is poised to make the kind of leaps in the 21st century that computer technology made in the 20th.

Among the topics our expert panel discussed:

  • Near-term applications of synthetic biology for creating new drugs, chemicals, and fuels.
  • The social and economic implications of synthetic biology.
  • Ethical and environmental challenges of synthetic biology.
  • Training tomorrow’s innovators in synthetic biology.
  • Future possibilities—a look ahead at what might be possible 20 years from now.


Life as We Grow It: The Promises and Perils of Synthetic Biology

Our October 2013 feature explores how scientists are engineering DNA that may one day eliminate malaria, solve the energy crisis and feed the world.


In 2006, the National Science Foundation established the first federally funded engineering research center (ERC) to advance the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synberc, a consortium of UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC San Francisco, MIT and Harvard, is now the world’s leading synthetic biology research organization. At Synberc, we believe that by responsibly leading the field of synthetic biology we will enable transformative technologies to meet global challenges and improve lives. Our mission is to build the foundations of synthetic biology by catalyzing multidisciplinary collaborations in research and education. Join us as we build the future with biology.