Next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled single genomes as well as complex environmental samples (metagenomes) to be sequenced on a routine basis. Bioinformatics analysis of the resulting sequencing data reveals a continually expanding catalogue of predicted proteins (~ 30 million as of February 2013), which cover the full spectrum of known pathways and functional activities. These include large numbers of novel biocatalysts for potential application in energy and environmental technologies, and many other biological parts with potential uses both in basic research as well as applied biotechnology.
However, converting sequencing data retrieved from databases (digital information) into biochemical molecules that can be functionally characterized remains challenging and represents a major bottleneck for fully exploiting the vast amounts of genomics information currently being generated.
One way to overcome these limitations is through synthetic biology methods that allow genes and pathways to be synthesized in a template independent manner thereby converting digital information into biochemical molecules in a single step.
In this presentation I will cover (i) our synthetic metagenomics pipeline, (ii) examples of how we have coupled DNA synthesis to high-throughput screening technologies to answer biological questions, (iii) how we are moving this emerging field forward.