This year's iGEM linkurl:winners; tackled a rather abstract information processing task, but many of the projects had direct health applications. In addition to the bactoblood and HIV project, there was a heart stem cell project, non-antibiotic resistant bacteria, a detection system for infections, and more. I asked Jeff Way of Merck KGaA in Germany, who was at the Jamboree as a judge, whether pharma and biotech companies were starting to apply synthetic biology approaches to drug development. Way (who cowrote an linkurl:article; on synthetic biology for The Scientist) said that with the first wave of innovative biotech products going off-patent, industry sorely needs some new ideas, but he didn't think the jump into synthetic biology was on the immediate horizon. "The design principles here have huge potential, but it's not really being realized," he said, in part because the mentality is still largely dominated by chemical synthesis of fairly...

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