Drew Endy

Drew Endy

Drew Endy is a forty- something Engineer. He has earned degrees in Civil, Environmental and Biochemical Engineering and today he is a faculty of the prestigious Stanford University. So, what else is new?  one might ask. Well, what is new is that his passion for building things is not limited to the sterile world of machines and electronic parts alone. Drew Andy wants to get down and dirty with Biology! “I build things, that’s what I do”, says this self- effacing man who has become the face of one of the newest kids on the technology block; Synthetic Biology. And what is this Synthetic Biology?

Wikipedia defines Synthetic Biology as follows: Synthetic biology is a new area of biological research that combines science and engineering in order to design and build (“synthesize”) novel biological functions and systems. A more technical definition states, “Synthetic biology refers to both:

  • The design and fabrication of biological components and systems that do not already exist in the natural world  &,
  • The re-design and fabrication of existing biological systems”.1

To make matters simple, Synthetic Biology aims to use the components of nature as building blocks to build hitherto non-existent systems. So, how is this approach supposed to be different from the current field of Genetic Engineering? Well, in the latter, scientists cut and chop pieces of DNA, the fundamental molecule of information in living systems, from different organisms and paste them together. The aim of this is to improve the existing system by augmentation with a desirable trait from another DNA molecule. So, we have the easily cultivable E. coli cell spliced with genes producing Human Insulin yielding virtual factories of this much-needed molecule. Or we have crop plants spliced with genes to increase their tolerance to salt or to improve their yield or size of the grain, all efforts to improve the existing quality of the plant.

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