New standards within the synthetic biology community may help lift the field from pure research to practical applications, according to an international group of researchers, including a computational synthetic biologist at
A group of 32 authors from 19 institutions writing in Nature Biotechnology says Synthetic Biology Open Language, a proposed data standard for exchanging previously validated designs, is critical to the evolution of synthetic biology from a research discipline to an engineering practice.
Synthetic biology brings together diverse disciplines such as bioinformatics, molecular biology, chemistry, and engineering. Its goal is to engineer living organisms to fulfill certain functions, much like machines are built to perform specific tasks.
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Synthetic Biology Open Language, also known as SBOL, has allowed the synthetic biology community to put its ambitions into action by giving scientists the freedom and flexibility to move data between software tools and projects.
"Since 2007, we have seen a rapid expansion of the number of software applications for synthetic biology," said Jean Peccoud, a professor at the
Development of the language began in
Peccoud and a small group of synthetic biologists involved in software development projects realized that their tools needed access to specific data that could not be captured using existing bioinformatics standards.
A series of biannual meetings, along with a vibrant online community, have been instrumental in enabling the community-driven specification of this standard.
"Fifteen years ago, I was part of the effort to develop a standard for the systems biology community," said
The development of such a standard makes possible greater synergy between teams working toward the same objectives in synthetic biology. This could mean even quicker advances in medicine, sustainability, and agriculture.
"The institute's reputation has been built on providing software tools and information portals to various communities of life scientists," said
Peccoud is the chief scientific officer of
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