The design and construction of an artificial bacterial cell could revolutionize biotechnological processes and technologies. A functional platform cell that can be easily customized for a pre-defined task would be useful for applications from producing therapeutics to decontaminating waste streams. The platform cell must be robust and highly efficient. A biotechnological platform cell is related to the concept of a minimal cell, but several factors beyond those necessary for a minimal cell must be considered for a synthetic organism designed for biotechnological applications. Namely, a platform cell must exhibit robust cell reproduction, decreased genetic drift, a physically robust cell envelope, efficient and simplified transcription and translation controls, and predictable metabolic interactions. Achieving a biotechnological platform cell will benefit from insights acquired from a minimal cell, but an approach of minimizing an existing organism's genome may be a more practical experimental approach. Escherichia coli possess many of the desired characteristics of a platform cell and could serve as a useful model organism for the design and construction of a synthetic platform organism. In this article we review briefly the current state of research in this field and outline specific characteristics that will be important for a biotechnologically relevant synthetic cell that has a minimized genome and efficient regulatory structure. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2010; 105: 26–36. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.