Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology refers to the design and construction of new biological systems not found in nature. Advances in this area offer great promise in areas such as healthcare, manufacturing and energy generation. However, there is also the prospect of potentially catastrophic results if this technology is misused, whether maliciously or inadvertently.

  • Emerging biosecurity threats (2019)
    Concerns are intensifying about the need for robust governance arrangements, to maximise the benefits and minimize the risks from synthetic biology research. With this in mind, in July 2019, we worked with the US Army Engineer Research & Development Center to bring together scientists, national and international regulators, security agencies and businesses to consider the security implications of synthetic biology. Under the auspices of NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme, the workshop sought to clarify the causes and potential consequences of biosecurity risks, and to explore potential response strategies.
    Outline of the workshop proceedings.
    EPFL News: “Evaluating the risks posed by synthetic biology”
  • Gene drive based malaria control (2020)
    Gene drives offer a double-edged alternative to traditional methods of controlling malaria and other vector borne diseases. The appeal of gene drives rests on their extraordinary efficiency in suppressing vector populations and spreading alterations to diminish the ability to host plasmodium. Concerns over gene drives center on their potential for unlimited spread across borders with uncontrolled effects on the global genetic commons. Localization safeguards offer a possible escape from this dilemma. In May 2020 IRGC will co-organised with Prof. Kenneth Oye (MIT) a  workshop hosted by the Brocher Foundation in Geneva. The workshop will bring together gene drive researchers, developers, regulators, and stakeholders to anticipate data needs and testing methods for gene drives localization safeguards.