Governance of Synthetic Biology

Chief Operating Officer and Professor, J. Craig Venter Institute, United States


Synthetic biology is … biotechnology. From a policy perspective, synthetic biology is a new set of methods for genetic engineering that offers new opportunities, brings several new challenges, and just as important, does little to alter the controversies that have surrounded the use of biotechnology for the last several decades. I will first review the current governance of synthetic biology and biotechnology to address five key societal concerns: 1. biosecurity, 2. laboratory biosafety, 3. harm to the environment, 4. human health, and 5. ethical issues. I then briefly discuss the potential benefits and risks to society, and finally, present some governance options for policymakers to consider.