A SynBio community comes of age: Political, academical, industrial, and societal developments in the Netherlands
*Corresponding author for this work
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › Academic › peer-review
Synthetic biology (SynBio) is a rapidly growing scientific discipline. In the Netherlands, various universities and companies are tackling a variety of opportunities and challenges within this field. In this perspective article, we review the current synthetic biology landscape in the Netherlands across academia, industry, politics, and society. Especially within Dutch academia there is an active, though only partially connected, research community involved in various domains of SynBio. Mostly supported by governmental funding, academic research is focusing on top-down synthetic biology, involving the engineering of, for example, bacteria and yeast for bioproduction, as well as bottom-up and cell-free synthetic biology aiming to understand life and build synthetic cells. There is also a large number of talented and motivated students interested in the field, exemplified by the participation and success of Dutch teams in the international iGEM synthetic biology competition. Commercial synthetic biology activities are taking place in various large industrial companies, as well as in start-ups and spin-offs, mostly divided over several ‘SynBio hubs’ in the Netherlands. However, the investment, regulatory and public-perception landscape is not yet optimal to stimulate entrepreneurial activities in SynBio. The Dutch and global society can further benefit from the large promise of SynBio through better integration of people active in the Dutch SynBio field, frequent political and public dialogue, and more attention towards regulatory issues. The recently founded Dutch synthetic biology association SynBioNL aims to contribute to realizing a positive impact on society by stimulating advances of the field in the Netherlands and beyond.