Nancy J. Kelley, J.D.

Synthetic biology promises to play an important role in the U.S. bioeconomy.


Synthetic biology—the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems, and the redesign of natural biological systems for useful purposes—is contributing sustainable and innovative solutions to numerous, pressing human needs and global challenges.1 First established as a scientific discipline around 2000, technical advances in the field continue to open up new possibilities in healthcare, agriculture, chemicals, materials, energy, and bioremediation. With an expected global market of $10.8 billion by 2016, synthetic biology will play an important role in the bioeconomy and has increasing implications for future US competitiveness and employment.2

How far the US, as a nation, can go with this technology depends on our ability to bring together diverse researchers and stakeholders with a big vision, carefully considered strategy, and the support to carry it through. The frontier is still just beginning to be explored, and there is much to be done to fulfill the promise of engineering biology safely and responsibly.

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Nancy J. Kelley, J.D. ([email protected]), has driven key scientific initiatives in the business, government, nonprofit, and academic sectors for over 20 years. Most recently, Dr. Kelley was the Founding Executive Director of the New York Genome Center.

1 Synthetic biology community. Available at (Last accessed December 2013).
2 BCC Research. Synthetic Biology: Emerging Global Markets. Wellesley, MA, 2011.

Industrial Biotechnology, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a peer-reviewed bimonthly research journal focused on biobased industrial and environmental products and processes. The above article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Industrial Biotechnology with the title “The Promise and Challenge of Engineering Biology in the United States”. The views expressed here are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of Industrial Biotechnology journal, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers, or their affiliates. No endorsement of any entity or technology is implied.

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