Abstract

For decades, biologists have relied on written descriptions of protocols to guide their experiments in the laboratory. However, due to recent technology trends, the practice of describing protocols with free-flowing English-language text is quickly becoming inadequate and obsolete. First, we are witnessing immense advances in laboratory automation systems. Microfluidic chips have been evolving at a pace faster thanMoore’s Law, with the number of valves per chip doubling every four months [1]. In order to leverage such technologies for biological experimentation, it will be necessary to express the protocols in a format that is not only comprehensible by humans, but also by machines. Second, the complexity of biology protocols is increasing dramatically. As we attempt to synthesize living systems as a composition of many parts, we will need to execute lengthy protocols with great precision. This will require a standard language for unambiguously describing the steps needed to synthesize a part, as well as for composing parts into a larger system.