Stanford|Synthetic Biology

Enabling flourishing futures in partnership with life

What is synthetic biology?

Drawing from Ancient Greek σύνθεσις (súnthesis), meaning "a putting together; composition," Synthetic Biology (SB) explores and enables new forms of engagement with life and living systems, from the molecular to the ecological, from the cultural to the political. SB is as much about understanding life's fundamental mysteries as the translation of knowledge enabling a fully-biotic civilization flourishing in partnership with Earth. Stated differently, as we learn how to talk with and within living systems what do we wish to say? When we pause to listen anew what might we learn to hear?

All together now!

Stewart Brand, Stanford Class of 1960 (Biology), wrote,

"I propose six significant levels of pace and size in the working structure of a robust and adaptable civilization. [...] In a healthy society each level is allowed to operate at its own pace, safely sustained by the slower levels below and kept invigorated by the livelier levels above." (Long Now)

With pace-layer thinking in mind we are exploring and advancing synthetic biology (SB) among and across all aspects of civilization, inclusive of but not limited to biotechnology and bioeconomy. We also note that intrinsic to pace layers thinking is a bias towards the human, a concept we suspect may evolve along with SB. Thus, we have adopted a coupled-rings visual metaphor, in place of layers, for now.

SB@Stanford News

Sergiu Pasca explains how to reverse engineer the human brain by growing organoids.

August 2022

Dr. Alice Cheng of Fischbach Lab & colleagues make human microbiome from scatch.

September 2022

The Bintu lab takes a synthetic approach to understand and program chromatin-mediated gene silencing & activation.

June 2022

Brophy et al. pioneer synthetic genetic circuits in plant roots.

August 2022

Townshend, Kaplan, & Smolke report over 200 new RNA biosensors to potential drug molecules.

July 2022

Endy & McKelvey reflect on synthetic biology's potential impacts for democracy and national security, hosted by Los Alamos National Lab. and moderated in part by Stanford's Prof. Hank Greely.

July 2022

"What is synthetic biology and what is its potential? These stories explain." Megan Palmer's WEF Council partners with Faber Futures to explore and elaborate on inclusive futures.

June 2022

Preparing for and preventing future pandemics. Two new grants provide key resources

June 2022

"Building a Bottom-Up Bioeconomy," Stanford's Dr. Megan Palmer and colleagues make the case by reimagining industrialization.

May 2022

Making With Mushrooms! 17 years later the second-ever issue of Adventures in Synthetic Biology begins to emerge.

May 2022

"Mother Nature, Bioweapons, & Lab Accidents: Guarding Against the Next Global Biological Catastrophe," Stanford's Freeman Spogli's CISAC welcomes Dr. Jaime Yassif of NTI. March 2022

Prof. Pasca explores how to understand the mysteries of the human mind by growing neural circuits from scratch.

Jan 2022

Prof. Skylar-Scott & team explain what must be made real to ultimately print working hearts from scratch.

March 2022

"Who wouldn't want to ride on a Wooly Mammoth?," Stanford undergraduates explore dystopian and utopian futures that might arise via resurrecting extinct species. March 2022

Prof. Ting's team pioneers LuCID, a genetically-encoded tool for realtime measurement of calcium dynamics in live cells, including neurons and immune cells.

March 2022

Prof. Steinmetz and colleagues pioneer synthetic genomics for understanding the fundamental rules of genome architecture.

March 2022

The New Yorker explores if what biology needs right now is more synthesis. Prof. Zia chimes in.

February 2022

Prof. Brophy & Dinneny pioneer living Boolean logic in plants for climate resilience.

February 2022

Gao lab pioneers the engineering of protein circuits that let cells talk to each other.

February 2022

Novozymes recognizes Adjunct Prof. Smolke & team with 100,000 DKK prize for sustainable medicines.

February 2022

How can American strengthen its bioeconomy? Adjunct Prof. Palmer and colleagues chart the path.

February 2022

Can we engineer crops to withstand climate change? Prof. Brophy makes the case.

January 2022

NY Times explores what's happening and might be possible via synthetic biology. E.g., it's personal!

November 2021

Megan Palmer, co-chair of World Economic Forum Council on Synthetic Biology, and team release report on synthetic biology.

April 2021

Prashanth in the Smolke lab pioneers brewing of tropane alkaloids from scratch.

September 2020