The announcement by Craig Venter and his team last week that they had managed to create a man-made microbe (nattily nicknamed ‘Synthia’) was a major scientific achievement, but has caused a bit of a kerfuffle.

Whether it’s Nobel prize winner John Sulston FRS (an organic chemist by training) fearing that an attempt to patent the ‘synthetic life form’ will hamper research, or President Obama calling on the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to look into the implications of this latest milestone, it’s clear that science is beginning to wade into uncharted waters as synthetic biology progresses.

So to help you make sense of the science and the potential of synthetic biology, we thought we’d pull together a selection of Chemistry World articles that look at this fascinating field.


The first synthetic cell
May 2010 – Venter’s latest creation, a chemically synthesised genome housed in a naturally grown cell

A redesign for life


November 2009 – Work in the fashionable new field of synthetic biology is gathering pace. Hayley Birch looks into some of the latest developments in a rapidly evolving area (you’ll need to be an RSC member to access this one)

Sparks of creation
July 2008 – Chemists are at the forefront of synthetic biology, the burgeoning field that could soon create artificial life. Ananyo Bhattacharya reports

Genome maverick
July 2008 – In an exclusive interview, controversial scientist and entrepreneur Craig Venter tells Richard Corfield how he thinks synthetic genomics can save the planet (you’ll need to be an RSC member to access this one)

Chemistry World podcast
July 2008 – John McCarthy from Manchester University explains how synthetic biology could help design new biofuels (7:30), and Jason Chin from Cambridge University on engineering cells capable of producing


completely novel proteins (18:00)

And finally, if you’ve been inspired by the kind of research being carried out within synthetic biology, take a look at this article from our careers section about how synbio is inching it’s way into universities: The Educated Chemist: Crossing boundaries

Anna Lewcock

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