Lim Lab | Papers

Synthetic biology: lessons from the history of synthetic organic chemistry

Brian J. Yeh and Wendell A. Lim
Nature Chemical Biology 3, 521-5 (2007)

The mid-nineteenth century saw the development of a radical new direction in chemistry: instead of simply analyzing existing molecules, chemists began to synthesize them--including molecules that did not exist in nature. The combination of this new synthetic approach with more traditional analytical approaches revolutionized chemistry, leading to a deep understanding of the fundamental principles of chemical structure and reactivity and to the emergence of the modern pharmaceutical and chemical industries. The history of synthetic chemistry offers a possible roadmap for the development and impact of synthetic biology, a nascent field in which the goal is to build novel biological systems.