CRISPR Applications of CRISPR Genome Editing. Adapted from “Development and Applications of CRISPR-Cas9 for Genome Engineering“, Cell, 2014.
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SynBioBeta’s Most Popular Articles of 2019

Another year has come and gone, in seemingly the blink of an eye, and what a year it’s been! Funding for synthetic biology again topped the previous year, and there is no lack of emerging or established companies using synthetic biology to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues.

At SynBioBeta, we strive to keep you on top of the thought leaders, entrepreneurs, organizations, companies, and technologies that build our industry. It’s incredibly fun for us to not only produce engaging content for you, our readers, but also to learn which content you love — as well as which content you may not love so much.

So, once again, this year we decided to bring you the most popular articles on SynBioBeta (through the first week of December; determined by unique page views per day). While last year our most popular articles dealt with fundraising and investing, synthetic biology in space, and education, this year’s most popular themes included CRISPR, academic research, real-world applications, and new platforms. We hope you enjoy revisiting the articles on this list as much as we did!

1. CRISPR Clinical Trials: a 2019 Update

While last year our April Fool’s Day article was by far the most popular article of the year, 2019 was stolen by CRISPR. SynBioBeta’s most popular story this year was an overview on CRISPR-based clinical trials in the United States, expertly written by Hope Henderson. In the article, Henderson covers the basics of clinical trials, maps out ongoing CRISPR-based trials, and what we really hope to learn from the trials. Some of the more exciting clinical trials? Well, you’ll have to read Henderson’s article to find out.

2. Top synthetic biology news from academic labs in 2019

Next on the list was our own Marianna Limas’ coverage of exciting synthetic biology research happening in academic labs around the world. Limas highlighted groundbreaking discoveries such as the Broad Institute’s prime editing, and included some of the top research as judged by researchers in the field themselves. Some of their favorites included CRISPR multiplexing, an integral feedback controller genetic circuit in bacteria, and hachimoji DNA.

3. Fermenting the future of healthy aging

The third most popular article this year was my own piece on healthy aging. In today’s world we focus too much on taking care of ourselves after we are sick, rather than preventing illness and extending our quality of life. A growing body of research suggests that an amino acid called L-ergothioneine, found in mushrooms, could help protect our cells from age-related damage. And one company is paying very close attention to that research. Read my article to find out who.

4. Synthetic biology: the inheritance of my generation

Desiree Ho’s op/ed on synthetic biology was a refreshing look at our field from the eyes of a student on the path to a career in synthetic biology. In her article, Ho discusses how synthetic biology can provide solutions to the biggest problems facing her generation and the societal changes required to fit synthetic biology comfortably into everyday life.

5. These 37 synthetic biology companies raised $1.2B this quarter

Like last year, one of our readers’ favorite articles was Calvin Schmidt’s quarterly funding report. In this year’s Q2 report, Schmidt announced that yet again, funding was on pace to break last year’s numbers. Schmidt also explored newly funded companies, the number of funding rounds year by year, and total annual funding over the past four years — and what these trends tell us.

6. Here are 10 emerging technology platforms building tomorrow’s breakthroughs

Just as readers were hungry for research news, readers were also hungry for platforms. In a recap of a SynBioBeta 2019 lightning talks session on emerging technology, SynBioBeta contributor John Murray covered 10 emerging technology platforms enabling synthetic biology breakthroughs. The list included Berkeley Lights’ Beacon optofluidic platform, AbCellera’s Celium antibody discovery platform, Opentrons’ OT-2 liquid handling robot, and a variety of platforms and tools still in development.

7. Building the human spinal cord atlas

It was back to the bench for our next most-popular article, SynBioBeta contributor Rodalyn Guinto’s piece on Columbia University’s part in the Human Cell Atlas project. The piece highlights work done in the laboratory of Dr. Abbas Rivzi toward identifying and understanding the function of every neuron in the human spinal cord. A daunting goal, to be sure, but one that could yield novel treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and spinal cord injuries if realized.

8. Probiotics 2.0: Synthetic biology jumps into the human gut

Probiotics are all the rage these days it seems — but a lot of hype surrounds “healthy gut” microbes. In this exposition on probiotics, SynBioBeta contributor and Community Editor for PLoS SynBio Kostas Vavitsas discusses how synthetic biology might help put some direction behind probiotics instead of anecdotal evidence and weak claims. And probiotics might not just be for digestive health anymore — hangover cure, anyone? Read Vavitsas’ article to find out more.

9. How Inscripta’s Onyx platform is making creativity the biologists’ only limiting factor

On opening day of SynBioBeta 2019, Inscripta’s CEO Kevin Ness announced their new OnyxTM platform, the world’s first fully automated digital genome engineering platform. Our audience must have been impressed by what they heard — my article delving deeper into the details of the platform and what it enables was quite popular. Give it a read — I’m sure you’ll be as inspired reading it as I was writing it.

10. With the recent patent news, who owns CRISPR now?

Our top ten list opened with CRISPR, and it closes with CRISPR, with SynBioBeta contributor Fiona Mischel’s article “With the recent patent news, who owns CRISPR now?” In her piece, Mischel expertly untangles the complicated IP web surrounding CRISPR. She discusses Berkeley and the Broad, companies founded on initial CRISPR IP rights, and overlaps between patents. This is a must-read for anyone considering using CRISPR.

Note: We used the metric unique pageviews per day when curating this list to correct for varying lengths of time since article publication (for example, #3 on this list had only been published for 9 days, while #10 on this list was published in March). Our top ten articles based on total number of pageviews were:


Embriette Hyde

A trained microbiologist with over 7 years of experience in microbiome research, Dr. Embriette Hyde is passionate about bringing science to the public. She is currently working as Managing Editor at SynBioBeta and mentors K-12 students through Schmahl Science Workshops, fostering passion for science from a young age.

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