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Helping Disseminate Synthetic Biology Results with SBOL

One of the core challenges of the Living Computing Project is to enable more effective dissemination of the results of biological specification, design, and verification to the synthetic biology community. Making this work requires effective standards for the communication of biological designs, and toward this end, several of the key team members of the Living Computing Project have long been involved in the development of the Synthetic Biology Open Language (SBOL), and this work is now partially supported by LCP.

SBOL currently maintains two standards:

* SBOL visual lets people drawing genetic regulatory networks in a clear an unambiguous manner.

* SBOL data standard is a machine-readable format for precisely specifying the sequence of a genetic design, its engineering components and history, their functional relationships, and external linkages to models, characterization data, assembly plans, etc.

Following major advances in the two standards over the last year, the synthetic biology community has just taken a major step in enabling effective communication: ACS Synthetic Biology recently became the first scientific journal to officially adopt standards for how genetic constructs should be depicted and how the designs of engineered organisms should be recorded and shared. The journal’s author guidelines are being adjusted to state that genetic constructs should be depicted using SBOL Visual and that SBOL 2 is the preferred format for nucleic acid sequences.

Wider adoption of standards like these is critical for moving the engineering of living organisms from being a delicate craft, practiced with great difficult and uncertainty, toward becoming a familiar and reliable part of our capabilities as a species. Effective engineering demands clear communication and the ability to integrate components from many sources. Safe and ethical engineering practices demand them even more so.

For more information on SBOL, see the community website at:

For more information on ACS Synthetic Biology’s adoption of SBOL, read the ACS Synthetic Biology article or listen to LCP investigator Dr. Jacob Beal on their June 2016 podcast.

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Sponsored by National Science Foundation’s Expeditions in Computing Program

(Awards #1522074 / 1521925 / 1521759).