Here’s a list of major synthetic biology accomplishments in 2016: 

  • Stanford bioengineers have created a multi-step pathway consisting of genes from several different organisms, including opium poppy, California poppy, bacteria and rat. They have inserted those pathways into yeast to produce morphine from sugar.
  • The first companies focused on gene editing went public and the first gene editing experiment on a human was conducted in China
  • Food and fragrance industry clients began purchasing engineered microbes to produce novel flavors and smell and assure consistent supplies of the ingredients they use to create their products
  • A small company launched the first commercial DNA hard drives for data storage and made those available on Amazon.com
  • The most valuable biotechnology deal of the year was a venture between old-pharmaceutical company, Bayer, and a gene editing company to develop therapeutics for blood disorders, blindness and congenital heart disease
  • A global athletic wear manufacturer announced the creation of a shoe made entirely from engineered spider silk while a vocal anti-GMO sportswear manufacturer inked a deal with a spider silk manufacturer
  • Researchers synthesized the largest therapeutic virus to treat bone cancer in dogs – setting the stage for personalized cancer therapeutics
  • Genetically modified mosquitoes were released in limited quantities in the tropics to prevent the spread of Zika virus
  • More than US$1 billion was invested into synthetic biology companies in 2016, often by technology investors who previously avoided biotechnology because of its long development timelines