Synthetic biology is a new area of biological research that combines science and engineering. It encompasses a variety of different approaches, methodologies, and disciplines with a variety of definitions. What they all have in common, however, is that they see synthetic biology as the design and construction of new biological functions and systems not found in nature.
Researchers from the Synthetic Biology Department and individuals from research laboratories at other institutions in the USA, among which the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University, have also set up a synthetic biology community. This community defines ‘synthetic biology’ as:
1) the design and construction of biological parts, devices and systems, and
2) the redesign of existing, natural biological systems for useful purposes.
According to the Committee on Genetic Modification (COGEM), the biosafety expert body to the Dutch Ministry of the Environment, the term synthetic biology was already used in 1980 for bacteria genetically altered through recombinant DNA technology (COGEM, 2006). But now synthetic biology constitutes a specialized field within genetic modification. In the view of COGEM, "synthetic biology focuses on the design and synthesis of artificial genes and complete biological systems, and on changing existing organisms, aimed at acquiring useful functions. "
The video below by James Hutson explains what synthetic biology is about.