WHEN A TEAM of research- ers at Bar-Ilan Univer- sity in Israel recently announced they had successfully implanted DNA-based nanorobots inside living cockroaches—possibly paving the
way for a revolution in cancer treatment—it marked the latest in a series of
promising innovations to emerge from
the synthetic biology community over
the past decade.
In recent years, biotechnologists
have started to come tantalizingly close
to engineering next-generation drugs
and vaccines, DNA-based computational systems, and even brand-new
synthetic life forms. Amid all these advances, however, the development of
synthetic biology software has largely
failed to keep up with the pace of innovation in the field.
With only a handful of commercial software tools at their disposal,
most synthetic biologists have had no
choice but to build their own bespoke
systems to support the intense data
modeling needs of molecular engineering.
“Computer science is critically important to synthetic biology,” says Drew
Endy, an associate professor of biotechnology at Stanford University and
co-founder of BIOFAB, an ambitious
Science | DOI: 10.1145/2732419 Alex Wright
Synthetic biologists may be closing in on potentially
world-changing breakthroughs, but they are often
hamstrung by a shortage of software tools.