How Synthetic Biology is Accelerating Drug Discovery

August 4, 2020 09:05:28

Synthetic biology is becoming an important tool in a wide range of applications. In the sector of drug discovery, there are many areas where synthetic biology has played a vital role in faster and accurate drug development at lower expenses. With an increased application of DNA sequencing, synthetic biology is becoming essential to biotech and pharma scientists.

Furthermore, the tool has empowered drug discovery scientists to clone and synthesize DNA fragments to develop new drugs. Through it, researchers have resorted to automated platforms for rapid DNA synthesis. This technology is being looked at to generate more vaccine candidates for the SARS-COV-2 Virus faster than the more usual way.

Application of Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology mechanisms have gained pace in the drug discovery channel. The tool is helping scientists in several areas in preclinical and clinical research. A major use of synthetic biology is developing a cell-free system that allows scientists to analyze and activate biology machinery. It is done without the baffling number of variables introduced by a live cell system. Furthermore, advanced synthetic systems have brought new ways of manipulating body systems for a better understanding of biology and the discovery of new drugs.

Rapid and accurate synthesis of DNA has been of benefit to the drug discovery process. The process has been very important, especially where cost and time-sensitive needs had to be considered in generating DNA fragments and expression of vectors or variant libraries. The advancement in synthetic biology techniques can be used to boost natural polymerases that can produce dozens of DNA fragments overnight.

Besides, synthesized clones and variant libraries can be essential in discovery biology, epitope grading, protein, and antibody engineering. Recently, variant libraries produced by synthetic biology were used by some researchers in designing and assembling a series of nanobody sequences. By using synthetic biology, the outcome was three times faster than using manual benchtop cloning methods. Additionally, synthetic biology has also been paired with CRISPR methods to aid in gene therapy development and disease modeling.

Speedy Vaccine Development

The broad gains of synthetic biology in drug discovery can be demonstrated in the recent efforts to develop vaccines for COVID-19. Besides, the tool was also successfully used to develop vaccines for the H7N9 avian flu, which never turned into a pandemic. Modern automation has also been availed in time for the emergence of the SARS-COV-2 outbreak.

Scientists have also been able to take genome assemblies produced by SARS-COV-2 and have used the sequence to come up with genomic constructs for potential vaccines, and so far five potential vaccines have been identified. The timeframe for testing these vaccines has also been reduced, courtesy of synthetic biology.

With this type of speed via synthetic biology, researchers are even aiming to develop region-specific vaccines. Such localized vaccines will be more effective and will even respond to localized mutations. The approach can also be viable for vaccines using the RNA, live attenuated virus, DNA, or viral vectors.

Seeing ahead

New approaches in synthetic biology have made this technology more accurate, more affordable, and faster. These advances are bringing synthetic biology to the field of drug discovery, which was not achievable before. Scientists have already demonstrated that implementing an automated synthetic biology podium can accelerate discovery research and speed the development of new therapies, so we should expect a lot in this direction from firms like Genprex Inc. (NASDAQ: GNPX).

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