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Before the 1970s, design automation was used more intensely in mechanical and civil engineering. In the 1970s, it became clear that the design of electrical and electronic circuits could be greatly aided by software tools. These tools enabled the creation of a novel electronic design automation (EDA) industry that claimed its space in the software industry. Today there is not a single IC company that does not use EDA tools. But because of this fact, EDA's overall market is saturated and enjoys modest growth. Much has been talked about extending EDA in the system space. To the rescue of a difficult path to double digit growth in EDA comes Synthetic Biology! Synthetic biology is about the synthesis of complex biological systems to obtain behaviors that do not exist in nature. A METHODOLOGY HAS come to the rescue within the past decade to reduce complexity, and to provide abstraction and design composability. The methodology is based on the availability of biological primitives: DNA-encoded 'Parts' are designed and then assembled to create modular 'Devices' that can be integrated into a host organism or assembled into a larger 'System.' This process resembles very much what we do today with integrated circuits. This methodology has enabled the development of design tools and a new discipline has emerged: Biology Design Automation (BDA). Workshops related to biodesign automation are appearing at traditional EDA venues (DAC), bioinformatics conferences (ISMB), and synthetic biology meetings (SB X.0). The way for EDA to extend to a new exciting field through the systematic construction of biological circuits maybe bumpy with detours, but eventually will enable the creation of a new industry by providing tools that make the design of living systems a true engineering discipline which is safe and effective.
Date of Publication: June 2012