18 Oct White biotechnology and synthetic biology
National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF) 2012
Biotechnology is the application of S&T to living organisms. White biotechnology (Bio-Based Industries – BBl) uses renewable carbon sources in fermentation processes to produce food compounds, fuels, specialties and chemical commodities, and plastics. Synthetic biology (SB) introduces engineering principles into biotechnology, promoting the emergence of a true bio-economy. Although endowed with a well-developed agriculture and BBI-related research, there are only about a dozen companies engaged in applications of SB to BBl in France, including start-ups, intermediate enterprises, and Total, resulting in few industrial realisations. The sector is considered risky by investors. A consistent effort to train engineers and PhD-students in these areas is essential. Regarding risks, traditional BBI-products must be distinguished from SB-products in specific sectors. Upstream from industrial SB-applications on a large scale, research on the security, safety, ethics, toxicology and ecotoxicology is vital. The academic SB community self-regulates its conduct in an effort of openness, transparency, anticipation and prevention of potential risks.
Working-group leader: Pierre Monsan, director “Toulouse White Biotechnology” and NATF Fellow.