News Feature | February 25, 2014

MIT's Synthetic Biology Center To Collaborate With Pfizer

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By Cyndi Root

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced in a press release that its Synthetic Biology Center (MIT SBC) will collaborate with Pfizer Inc. on drug discovery. The three year project seeks to develop synthetic biology, utilize varied therapeutic approaches, and involve interdisciplinary researchers. MIT facilitates the SBC through the Department of Biological Engineering, which includes faculty from various disciplines. Doug Lauffenburger, the Ford Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering and head of MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering, said, “This collaboration supports our goal to develop sophisticated synthetic biological systems from standardized, well-characterized modular parts for useful application in multiple fields, including biopharmaceutical molecular and bioprocess design.”

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology is a design and re-design process that takes existing biosystems and reconstructs them in pursuit of new biologics and drugs. It includes body parts, tissues, cells, devices, and systems. Using engineering principles, researchers craft cells, cell architectures, and agents into novel biological systems. The science has become more standardized as scientists have performed basic designs and characterized common biological parts.

Practical applications for the technologies are unlimited. Synthetic biology can reach all realms including diagnosis and treatment of disease. Drug costs and prices may decrease substantially with synthetic manufacturing practices. Synthetics can revolutionize clinical testing, as researchers could test drugs on synthesized human tissue rather than experiment on animals or humans. This field could improve the understanding scientists have of basic biology and prove to have unimaginable value in the future. 

Jose Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, group Senior Vice President and Head of Pfizer’s BioTherapeutics Research and Development said, “We are reaching a key inflection point where advances in synthetic biology have the potential to rapidly accelerate and improve biotherapeutics drug discovery and development, from early-stage candidate discovery through product supply, which could bring better, more effective therapies to patients more rapidly.”

About the Synthetic Biology Center

The SBC works to develop synthetic biology’s basic principles and applied science. It trains new leaders and works in partnership with other entities to complete its mission. The research center believes that the key to synthetic biology is to build biological substrates that have control over the chemical processes.

About Pfizer

Pfizer began in 1849 by Charles Pfizer and his cousin. It is headquartered in New York City and is traded publicly. It has many popular drugs and a few orphan drugs, as well as other healthcare products.