From 1960 – 1990, 95 medicines were withdrawn from the US market due to serious drug safety concerns (Royal Academy UK, 2007). The late stage compound attrition also caused significant dent to financial arm of the companies e.g., AstraZeneca’s Exanta drug (30% drop in share prices in 2004). Given that traditional methods of drug discovery are not helping, we need novel methods and approaches of drug discovery. Systems Biology helps in reduced drug discovery costs, drug repositioning, predict on-target, off target effects, find new targets and drug combinations and predict toxicity. Some of the major global initiatives in Systems Biology are run by DARPA (USD 5.3 million, Stanford BioX program), Department of Energy (US): Genome to Life (25 year program, started in 2002), Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany) : USD 150 million : Hepatosys program. The global market for Systems Biology has been predicted to be USD 1.2 billion by 2017, CAGR 18.5% (Market and Market report, 2012).
Synthetic Biology and Engineering Research Centre (SYNBERC) was started in 2006 with USD 16 m initiative of National Science Foundation comprising of UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Prairie View A&M University. Their focus areas are: energy production, chemical and pharmaceuticals manufacturing and fabricating materials. At the University of Washington, Prof. Pakrasi's group has won a USD 3.8 million grant to engineer tiny nitrogen-fixing devices within photosynthetic cells such that plants can make their own fertilizer ! The UK based SybiCITE consortium started in July 2013, with £ 10 m from Govt and £ 14 m from industry. The consortium comprises of 17 universities and 13 industries across the country. Their focus areas are: healthcare, agriculture, novel materials, biofuels, bioremediation and manufacturing. Global market for synthetic biology is predicted to be around USD 1.7 billion by 2018, CAGR 41% (Transparency Market Research). Key drivers of this projected growth are needs from biopharma, bio-based chemical synthesis, biofuels etc.
In terms of the community effort, Synthetic Biology made its formal appearance in India in October 2010 with the Biodesign India symposium at the University of Kerala. This event created a synthetic biology interest group (SynJeevani) comprising of students, faculty and administrators.
The second synthetic biology event was held two years later at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Dec 2012. This one day symposium brought together Indian Scientists and students, colleagues from the US National science Foundation, Washington University and Department of Biotechnology.
The aim of Indo US workshop in Synthetic Biology is to bring together synthetic biology communities in India and the US to find scientific problems of social relevance, highlight educational requirements and identify collaboration opportunities and various funding pathways.