New organisms and biological systems designed to satisfy human needs are among the aims of synthetic genomics
and synthetic biology. Synthetic biology seeks to model and construct biological components, functions and organisms
that do not exist in nature or to redesign existing biological systems to perform new functions. Synthetic genomics,
on the other hand, encompasses technologies for the generation of chemically-synthesized whole genomes or larger
parts of genomes, allowing to simultaneously engineer a myriad of changes to the genetic material of organisms. Engineering
complex functions or new organisms in synthetic biology are thus progressively becoming dependent on and converging
with synthetic genomics. While applications from both areas have been predicted to offer great benefits by making
possible new drugs, renewable chemicals or clean energy, they have also given rise to concerns about new safety, environmental
and socio-economic risks – stirring an increasingly polarizing debate. Here we intend to provide an overview
on recent progress in biomedical and biotechnological applications of synthetic genomics and synthetic biology as well as
on arguments and evidence related to their possible benefits, risks and governance implications.
Keywords: Applications, Benefits, Biofuels, Biomedicine, Environment, Risks, Synthetic genomics, Synthetic biology, Genomics, biotechnological applications.
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