Synthetic biology is at a stage similar to that of computer science in the 1950's: The foundational pieces are starting to emerge, in the form of standardized DNA parts, packaged for combinatoric assembly using standards such as BioBricks. However, creating new DNA parts is tedious and time-consuming, and constructing systems from sets of DNA parts is an ad hoc, manual process that limits the size, complexity, and capability of the resulting systems. The time is right for automation of biological design.
Automation requires higher level abstractions, languages, design
patterns, and low-level tool support. BBN has the software engineering
expertise to build integrated infrastructure and layered systems and
tools. BBN has repeatedly demonstrated leadership in Artificial
Intelligence research (recently in the DARPA funded Integrated Learning
project that combined several learning and reasoning algorithms to
learn executable workflows from demonstrations). BBN's expertise in
this area will be an important source of innovation for developing
optimization and constraint satisfaction algorithms for the compiler.
For wet-lab support and synthetic biology expertise, BBN is
collaborating with researchers from MIT and BU on the TASBE project, the first
end-to-end tool-chain for synthetic biology.