ISGP Podcast: Synbio: Scary or Solution?

In the first installment in a two-part miniseries on applying synthetic biology to the real world scientists and policy makers must balance the overwhelming opportunities with the intricate challenges of this exciting technology. Synthetic biology and traditional molecular biology vary quite significantly in terms of both scale and speed with which new material can be created. With the automated method, which are characteristic of syn bio applications, it is easier and exponentially faster to make multiple variants of genes. Suddenly the potential exists for a significant positive impact across not only the field of infectious disease, but also across a variety of scientific disciplines and industries. However, because of the potential risk of bioterrorism and pathogen misuse that synthetic biology presents, debaters repeatedly noted that there’s an urgent need for an international regulatory framework to oversee this technology.

These issues were raised by a position paper titled titled “Synthetic Biology: A New Weapon in Our War Against Infectious Diseases,” written by Dr. John Glass, a professor at the J Craig Venter Institute. That paper and subsequent debate were part of an Institute on Science for Global Policy conference, Emerging and Persistent Infectious Diseases: Focus on Mitigation, which took place in October 2011 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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