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Building the business of biodesign

Synthetic biology can be harnessed to address some of humanity’s most pressing challenges within a short five-year time period, according to a new report released today. The report summarises the findings of a workshop held earlier this year by breakthrough innovation specialists Cambridge Consultants. The report concludes that predictability, a competitive supply-chain and accessibility represent the three core principles that will see synthetic biology transform into a commercially-focused, world-changing technology as soon as 2023.

Synthetic biology remains nascent, yet full of promise. The idea of using rational engineering approaches to design biology has the potential to solve some of humanity’s grand challenges, such as securing food supplies or developing new cancer drugs. The last two decades have seen massive technical progress and increasing global interest in what synthetic biology might achieve. However this has not yet been translated into significant business growth. Synthetic biology products and services need to become a major part of economic activity if they are to truly deliver on their promise. Synthetic biology needs to become biodesign.

The workshop brought together senior leaders and influencers in the emerging synthetic biology industry, from many industry sectors. The resulting report, which is available to download today, identifies the following three core principles to drive this transformation:

  • A predictable engineering discipline: Synthetic biology will be established as an engineering discipline of biodesign with a high level of predictability. Effective standards will be in place to generate, collect, manage and communicate data across the industry
  • A competitive supply chain: An integrated supply chain will exist that can take the complex requirements of biological systems and translate them into competitive products and services
  • Accessible and desirable products and services: By 2023, synthetic biology products and services will be seen by all stakeholders (experts as well as non-experts) as an accessible and desirable solution to major challenges as well as to individual needs

“It’s hugely encouraging that our diverse group could unite around these core principles” said workshop leader and Cambridge Consultants’ Head of Synthetic Biology, Richard Hammond. “It demonstrates that a clear and consistent ambition for synthetic biology can be developed across multiple sectors, despite the seemingly disparate needs and market dynamics. I’d like to thank the participants for their contributions and insights and look forward to working with the global synthetic biology industry to make this vision a reality”.

The workshop took place in February 2018, operating under the Chatham House Rule and included representatives from GSK, Unilever, Ginkgo Bioworks, Synthetic Genomics and M Ventures, amongst many others.

Recognising the emergence of a new era of rational biodesign, Cambridge Consultants created its synthetic biology division in 2015. Using state-of-the-art facilities and techniques, our synthetic biology team fuses expertise in biology, chemistry and engineering to convert research-driven discovery into breakthrough products and services.

To download a copy of the workshop report, click here.

Notes to editors

Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough products, creates and licenses intellectual property, and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide. For more than 50 years, the company has been helping its clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through the introduction of new technologies. With a team of more than 700 staff, including engineers, scientists, mathematicians and designers, in offices in Cambridge (UK), Boston (USA) and Singapore, Cambridge Consultants offers solutions across a diverse range of industries including medical technology, industrial and consumer products, digital health, energy and wireless communications. For more information, visit:

Cambridge Consultants is part of Altran, a global leader in engineering and R&D services which offers its clients a new way to innovate. Altran works alongside its clients on every link in the value chain of their project, from conception to industrialisation. In 2015, the Altran group generated revenues of €1.945bn. With a headcount of more than 27,000 employees, Altran is present in more than 20 countries. For more information, visit:



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