SYNENERGENE is a four-years mobilization and mutual learning action plan (MMLAP) supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme. The project aims at initiating and fostering public dialogue on synthetic biology and mutual learning processes among a wide variety of stakeholders from science, industry, civil society, education, art and other fields.
Dear Huib Vriend,
The SYNENERGENE Newsletters provide you with information about a wide range of activities undertaken in this four-years EU-funded project.
In this edition we highlight two SYNENERGENE activities. In the current phase of synthetic biology Theatrical Debate is a tool that helps people to imagine what this technology may bring and to reflect on opportunities and threat. The Synthetic Biology Monitor is not only a technical platform providing access to relevant literature in socieal sciences, but also most importantly a new wider approach for consulting which is based on the exploitation of information engineering and the potentialities of the web.
Two other articles deal with examples of synthetic biology in the context of repeatedly discussed issues in synthetic biology. The BioHack Academy is an example of how the Do-it-Yourself biology community seeks for new approaches to attempts to democratising science and technology by means of open access while exploring the ethical and social dimensions. Meanwhile, in publications on new (potential) applications of synthetic biology such as an opiate producing yeast the authors warn for its dual-use potential and call for governance measures.
We hope you enjoy reading,
Eleonore Pauwels & Huib de Vriend (editors)
Engaging publics with theatrical debate
Imagine it is 2035. Your husband passed away a few years ago and at the age of 92 the doctor just told you have a cancer, which can be cured with a new type of treatment: bio-engineered cells that travel through your body to search, find and destroy cancer cells. Your 70-year old daughter insists you take the cure. She wants you to stay with her. But you hesitate. You’ve had a good life and you don’t want to take another cure that maybe extends your life with another 1, 2, 3, maybe 4 years.
SYNENERGENE facilitates the process of the shaping of SynBio research and SynBio-derived innovation according to societal needs (Responsible Research and Innovation) in many different ways. Easy and free access to existing studies of policy issues (regulatory frameworks, public perception and expectations, ethical issues) will help the players in this field of Research and Innovation to reflect on novel and better informed policy avenues to RRI. For this purpose Andrea Lorenzetand his colleagues from the University of Padua, Italy, develop the Synthetic Biology Monitor (SBM), a web interface connected with a database.
On February 17, 2015, 60 people on three continents started participating in the first BioHack Academy organised by De Waag in Amsterdam. They could follow lectures that were given and recorded every week. The challenge to the participants was to build their own lab in 10 weeks, use it for whatever they felt was relevant and share it with the world. Pieter van Boheemen, organizer of the Academy, tells us about his impressions.
Recently developed technology to make morphine and other opiates from glucose with synbio-engineered yeast may have an advantage in terms of cost-effectiveness, secureness, safety and decreased addictiveness compared with conventional opiates produced from poppies. But it can also transform the illicit market place. Three scientists from MIT, Boston and the University of Alberta, Canada, call for regulation.
Several events related to synthetic biology and Responsible Research and Innovation are organized between June and November 2015. This newsletter just provides a brief overview. More information about these events is available at the SYNENERGENE website.
Report from the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity
A new report from the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity discusses synthetic biology's impacts on biodiversity and the adequacy of current risk assessment and regulatory schemes in order to assess the impact of the field.
The report akso discusses the social, economic and cultural considerations associated with synthetic biology techniques.
The report is available online at: www.cbd.int/ts/cbd-ts-82-en.pdf.