Marine Synthetic Biology: Towards Sustainable Utilization of Marine Bioresources
Synthetic biology is the design, construction and creation of new biological systems and/or even synthetic life (microbial cells). The extent of innovations through synthetic biology approaches includes bioactive compounds, biomolecules, biosensors, microbial cell factories and redesign of existing biological networks. This field was emerged as an advancement of traditional biology to genetic engineering, cloning, genome engineering and now as synthetic biology. Synthetic Biology in microbial systems can generate microbial factories to produce drugs, vaccines, fuel components and other chemicals with diverse applications and many global companies are involved in this effort. The production of artemisinin, a powerful antimalarial drug, in yeast at a commercial level was highlighted as a model for the use of synthetic biology in pharmaceutical development reported by Paddon and Keasling in May 2014 issue Nature Reviews in Microbiology.
Marine Biotechnology encompasses the exploration and exploitation of the vast marine diversity for the development of biomedicine, marine foods, bioremediation and environmental sustainability. Marine sedentary animals have exclusive chemical defense systems which being harnessed offer the discovery of novel drug leads and biological. Marine Secondary Metabolites are organic compounds produced by microbes, sponges, seaweeds, and other marine organisms. The host marine organism biosynthesizes these compounds as non-primary and/or secondary metabolites to protect themselves and to maintain homeostasis in their environment. Some of these high-value metabolites offer avenues for developing cost-effective, safe and potential drug leads. Conventional approaches for high-value metabolites production include complex extraction procedures to isolate bioactive metabolites from natural biological sources. But at times these methods are inefficient and preclude most of the high-value compounds. Synthetic biology approaches (e.g. whole genome transfer) to explore putative biosynthetic pathways and to achieve over expression / production of marine natural products. Mining of sequenced genome has emerged as a powerful method to quickly access the genome-wide natural product biosynthetic capacity of diverse bacteria in order to guide the discovery of new chemical entities. The discovery of genes involved in the synthetic pathways of these metabolites coupled with advances in synthetic biology tools, has allowed the construction of increasing numbers of microbial (e.g. yeast) cell factories for production of high-value metabolites from renewable biomass. Recent developments in Synthetic Biology approaches has further simplified and increased the scope of heterologous production of marine-derived natural products.
Recently DBT organized a brain storming session under the Chairmanship of Prof. G. Padmanaban, IISc, Bangalore to introduce Marine Synthetic Biology in India. The basis laid by the human genome project and the efforts of Craig Venter to synthesize and clone large chunks of DNA, he made a mention that lot of opportunities and applications exist in various sectors of biotechnology, including marine biology. DBT intend to promote synthetic biology in marine bio-prospecting since this is a very important area having lot of potential for development of primary and secondary metabolites with enormous application in the design and construction of new biological entities to hasten the process and to develop novel molecules.