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Brief Published: 18 Jul 2013

Synthetic Biology: Living Food

Living Food by Minsu Kim

The Stylus Trends Day in London (July 16) stirred talk of synthetic biology – the design and construction of biological devices and systems for useful purposes.

“We are at the start of a biological revolution,” said Abby Schlageter, founder of Polymathine, a UK-based company that looks for overlaps in the pursuit of sustainable innovation. “Synthetic biology presents endless possibilities.” 

Last week, the UK government announced a £60m ($90m) investment in synthetic biology to develop its commercial potential. Research goals include artificial photosynthesis and making synthetic chromosomes for yeast. 

The news follows the June exhibition of Living Food, a project that develops conceptual food through synthetic biology. Designed by Minsu Kim – a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) – the project explores “a future dining experience where food behaves like a living creature, entertaining us through an empathetic connection”. 

Kim’s food wriggles, stretches and inflates on the plate. Kim took inspiration from an artificial jellyfish made by researchers at Caltech and Harvard University in the US in 2012. The researchers grew heart muscle cells on a base of silicone to form the jellyfish, which mirrored the swimming and feeding behaviours of its biological counterpart.

Where will the engineering of organic materials take us? See Next: Designing Life in Balanced Values, a Stylus Macro Trend, for more on how scientists, technologists and designers are working together to design for our future lives,

Explore the influence of experimental synthetic biology on colour applications through Engineered, part of the Spring/Summer 2015 Stylus Spectrum. Similarly, the Stylus profile of UK-based artist Daisy Ginsberg traces the evolution of Synthetic Aesthetics.