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One key aspect of synthetic biology is the development and characterization of modular biological building blocks that can be assembled to construct integrated cell-based circuits performing computational functions. Likewise, the idea of extracting biological modules from the cellular context has led to the development of in vitro operating systems. This principle has attracted substantial interest to extend the repertoire of functional materials by connecting them with modules derived from synthetic biology. In this respect, synthetic biological switches and sensors, as well as biological targeting or structure modules, have been employed to upgrade functions of polymers and solid inorganic material. The resulting systems hold great promise for a variety of applications in diagnosis, tissue engineering, and drug delivery. This review reflects on the most recent developments and critically discusses challenges concerning in vivo functionality and tolerance that must be addressed to allow the future translation of such synthetic biology-upgraded materials from the bench to the bedside.