- About Us
- Career Center
- Nano-Social Network
- Nano Consulting
- My Account
Synthetic biology takes genetic engineering techniques developed in the 1970s many steps forward. Those methods were largely confined to moving genes from one organism to another. Now, using techniques from molecular biology, computer science, and engineering, synthetic biology aims to create wholly new genetic recipes (and ingredients) that the older engineering simply could not cook up. More effective medicines, intelligent tumor-seeking bacteria, and cheap biofuels are just a few of the hoped-for applications—while new weapons of terror are one of the fears.
This rapidly advancing technology raises ethical questions about benefits and harms that have not been thoroughly addressed. Some of these are concrete physical worries, akin to the safety and security concerns first identified with the invention of recombinant DNA technology. Other concerns tap into our inner instincts about what is natural, and what is our relationship to the natural world, as well as scientific freedom, justice and access to the benefits of technology, and intellectual property rights. The Hastings Center, long at the forefront of interdisciplinary research into ethical issues in emerging technology, has received a $500,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for a two-year project to examine these issues.
The project is being led by Thomas H. Murray, PhD, president of the center; Gregory E. Kaebnick, PhD, research scholar and editorial director; Erik Parens, PhD, senior research scholar; and Mary Crowley, director of public affairs and communication. Roger Brent, PhD, president and research director of The Molecular Sciences Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, will serve as science advisor. It builds on earlier work at the Center that was funded by a planning grant from the Sloan Foundation, which highlighted two areas requiring deeper investigation: the nonphysical moral concerns synthetic biology raises, and what role those concerns should play in public policy. "We have come up against similar problems in other domains—most notably, in work on nanotechnology and gene transfer technology—but synthetic biology poses them especially sharply and pressingly," said Dr. Murray.
The new project includes three meetings with presentations by an interdisciplinary working group including scientists, philosophers, social scientists, public policy experts, and theologians. It is designed to make serious contributions to the scholarly and scientific literature on synthetic biology, as well as engage science journalists on the issue.
The Center's work will contribute to an initiative by the Sloan Foundation that supports a comprehensive look at synthetic biology. The other participants in the initiative are the J. Craig Venter Institute, which will explore a range of societal concerns surrounding synthetic biology; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which will work with the scientific community and stakeholders in government, nongovernmental organizations, and the larger public to ensure that the public and policymakers are informed, and that risks are minimized.
About The Hastings Center
The Hastings Center is a nonpartisan bioethics research institution dedicated to bioethics and the public interest since 1969. The Center is a pioneer in collaborative interdisciplinary research and dialogue on the ethical and social impact of advances in health care and the life sciences. The Center draws on a worldwide network of experts to frame and examine issues that inform professional practice, public conversation, and social policy.
For more information, please click here
845-424-4040, x 222
Copyright © The Hastings CenterIf you have a comment, please Contact us.
Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
|Related News Press|
News and information
New tool could help reshape the limits of synthetic biology: The 'telomerator' reshapes synthetic yeast chromosome into more flexible, realistic form, redefining what geneticists can build November 3rd, 2014
Tiny carbon nanotube pores make big impact October 29th, 2014
PETA science consortium to present at Society for Risk Analysis meeting December 10th, 2014
Scientists disagree on responsible research April 8th, 2014
One step closer to a single-molecule device: Columbia Engineering researchers first to create a single-molecule diode -- the ultimate in miniaturization for electronic devices -- with potential for real-world applications May 25th, 2015
What makes cancer cells spread? New device offers clues May 19th, 2015
International and U.S. Students and Teachers Headed to Toronto for 34th Annual International Space Development Conference®: Students competed in prestigious NSS-NASA Ames Space Settlement Design Contest May 9th, 2015