Synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles and approaches to biological system design and development.
Today the research mostly consists of inserting carefully crafted DNA into bacteria cells to make them behave in new ways.
More commonly called genetic engineering, potential applications include new forms of biofuels, bacteria based biosensors, bacteria that eat pollutants and new drug therapies.
Frankenstein type creations are still very, very far away - so no need yet to alert the villagers.
A number of trends are driving the emergence of synthetic biology. Vast increases in computation power and speed make simulating and understanding simple biological organisms possible. And advances in genetics and genome sequencing make genetic engineering possible.
The Royal Academy of Engineering in England has put out an interesting report on synthetic biology. It is quite optimistic about the possibilities it has to change the world.
Part of our mission at Emergent Research is identify and track trends and shifts that will impact small businesses in the near to mid-term future. Synthetic biology is still a ways out, but the future often arrives faster than we think.