Events & News

SYNTHESIS laboratory exchange

A 6-day intensive exchange laboratory for artists, designers, 
synthetic biologists and engineers at UCL >>more

UCL wins gold at the iGEM competition


Enabling Systems Biology ConferenceApril 11-14, 2011 Registration open >>more

Harden Conference

Synthetic biology: design and engineering through understanding >>more

Recent Articles:

Combining living cells and inorganic materials for biosensors (Oct 2010)
Synthetic Biology: living quarters (Oct 2010)

Ethical and societal issues

The breadth of activities covered by the term 'Synthetic Biology' and the lack of a universal and single definition are likely to pose challenges in effecting constructive public dialogue around this science. In 2007, BBSRC's Bioscience for Society Strategy Panel established a Working Group to consider the societal issues raised by Synthetic Biology. 

The Group commissioned an independent review of the UK's position on Synthetic Biology and its broader social context, by Dr Paul Martin and Andrew Balmer of the Institute for Science and Society, University of Nottingham. The findings from this review are helping to inform the Synbiom contribution and its role in raising public awareness and stimulating constructive public dialogue about synthetic biology. 

The review drew attention to several issues, including:

  • perceptions of scientists 'playing God' in creating synthetic life
  • the intentional or accidental release of synthetic organisms into the environment
  • the misuse of synthetic organisms to create biological weapons, by nation states, terrorists or biohackers
  • the need to employ the precautionary principle and treat synthetic life forms as dangerous until proved otherwise
  • a commercial race to synthesise and privatise synthetic life forms
  • current patent law may stifle collaboration and development, and overcomplicate the patent process.

Synbion, and the other synthetic biology networks across the UK, is addressing these ethical, legal and social (ELSI) issues as an integral part of its work, drawing upon expertise from the humanities and social sciences as appropriate.

Page last modified on 23 apr 10 16:50