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Media Advisory 14-014

Learn the latest on synthetic biology at a June 26 Capitol Hill briefing

NSF, DISCOVER Magazine, UC Berkeley and NSF's Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC) present a panel discussion, "Sustaining U.S. Leadership in Biotech."

Discover magazine cover

This emerging field of research is capturing media and public interest.

June 23, 2014

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Synthetic biology is an emerging field of research that is developing faster, more precise methods to gain insight into basic questions in biology and to design and develop biological technologies to address societal needs. Biologists, engineers, and social scientists use synthetic biology to modify information content in cells, like reprogramming software in a computer. This involves computing, measurement, and decoding molecules that program cell activity, supported by the development of automated tools and standardized methods.

Biologists are investigating how synthetic biology can probe fundamental principles of biological systems, asking for example, "What are basic requirements for cell activity?"

Engineers are using synthetic biology to sustainably biomanufacture new materials with advanced properties or chemicals historically made from petroleum, and to cultivate crop varieties that use less petroleum-based fertilizers. Biologists, engineers, and social scientists use synthetic biology to address basic issues important to human health, such as, "What are the effects of potential drug candidates?" and "How could cells be reprogrammed to replace malfunctioning or damaged tissue?"

Join us as we discuss the challenges and promise of synthetic biology.


Sustaining U.S. Leadership in BIOTECH



Jay Keasling, director of SynBERC, CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute, assistant director at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and professor of biochemical engineering at UC Berkeley

Karmella Haynes, assistant professor of biological and health systems engineering at Arizona State University

Steve Evans, research fellow at Dow AgroSciences



Pramod Khargonekar, NSF assistant director for Engineering



U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell of California



Thursday, June 26, 2014, noon to 1:30 p.m. EST



B-339 Rayburn House Office Building


RSVPLisa-Joy Zgorski, (credentialed members of the media)


More than 500 companies, universities and other organizations are using methods and technologies that incorporate developments from synthetic biology. NSF primarily supports scientists and engineers for basic research, education, and accelerated innovation in foundational synthetic biology. These researchers are employed by universities, research institutes, and small businesses outside the federal government. NSF has been proactive in considering safety and environmental concerns, as well as ethical, policy, and legal issues relevant to synthetic biology research. NSF supports and participates in public discussions that engage worldwide experts to examine and address relevant potential safety and security issues.

SynBERC is the National Science Foundation's Engineering Research Center dedicated to basic research and accelerated innovation in synthetic biology as well as educating and preparing the next generation of leaders in this emerging area. SynBERC is assisted in its vision by an industrial board that consists of more than 30 companies or institutes representing diversity in sizes, geographies, technologies and product interests all along the value chain. SynBERC core academic partners are the UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.


Media Contacts
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF, (703) 292-8311, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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