Home Overview Press Room Blog Publications For Students about us
Search

About Synthetic Biology


"Synthetic biology" is an umbrella term that refers to a new set of powerful techniques for manipulating the fundamental molecular structures of life, including genes, genomes, cells and proteins. Techniques being developed under the "synthetic biology" rubric include the modification of existing bacteria to produce useful substances or perform new functions, the creation of novel artificial organisms from "scratch," and — less noted to date — the modification of animal and human genes.

Synthetic biologists foresee a host of human applications, including new methods to produce drugs, biofuels and vaccines; to diagnose, prevent and cure disease; and — far more controversially — to screen, select, and modify genes for specified traits in embryos, children, and adults. Nonetheless, the field remains in its early days, and separating hype from real potential remains difficult.

While diverse constituencies have voiced concerns about ecological and biosecurity risks, little attention has so far been called to the dangers connected to synthetic biology's human applications. Synthetically engineered viruses and pathogens and synthetic organisms released in the human body such as "tumor eating" bacteria, for example, pose profound dangers to human health.

Synthetic biology also presents dangers of a different kind if the field spawns forms of human genetic manipulation that heretofore have been impracticable. These include human reproductive cloning, the creation of "designer babies" through inheritable genetic modification, and other purported "enhancements." Leading figures in the synthetic biology field have in fact predicted, and in some cases embraced, such eugenic visions.

Such prospects raise concerns for social justice, human rights, and equality. However, at present, no comprehensive framework for assessment, oversight and regulation of synthetic biology exists nationally or internationally.


Biopolitical News of 2014by Pete Shanks, Jessica Cussins & Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesDecember 18th, 2014This is everything important that happened in biopolitics in 2014 (or close to it).
Top Biopolitical Times Posts of 2014by Jessica Cussins & Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesDecember 18th, 2014In 2014, CGS staffers and contributors posted 107 blogs in Biopolitical Times. These are twelve of our favorites.
Build a Pet Dinosaur or Your Perfect Childby Christine RosenSlateDecember 10th, 2014Synthetic biology entrepreneurs want each of us to become gods of our own creations.
CRISPR Opportunities … For What? And For Whom? by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesDecember 4th, 2014Money and deals are flowing into the companies founded on CRISPR technology, which promises to enable the precise editing of genomes.
Synthetic Enzymes Hint at Life Without DNA or RNAby Andy CoghlanNew ScientistDecember 1st, 2014For the first time, enzymes that don't exist in nature have been made from genetic material that doesn't exist in nature either, called XNA, or xeno nucleic acid.
The Vagina Bio-Hack That Wasn't: How Two 'Startup Bros' Twisted the 'Sweet Peach' Missionby Jessica CussinsThe Huffington PostNovember 26th, 2014Two male biotech CEOs announced they had created a bio-hack to make women's vaginas smell like peaches. It turns out they did not even create 'Sweet Peach,' and they got it all wrong.
Pigs to Peopleby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 24th, 2014Synthetic biology takes aim at xenotransplantation.
Cellular 'Computers' Gain a Hard Driveby Brendan BorrellNature NewsNovember 14th, 2014DNA-based memory can record multiple inputs from engineered gene circuits.
Synthetic Biologist Aims to Create Pig with Human Lungsby Lisa M. KriegerSan Jose Mercury NewsNovember 14th, 2014Led by scientists like Venter and Endy, the once-fledgling field of synthetic biology has surged in commercial interest.
Human Thoughts Used to Switch on Genes by Helen ThomsonNew ScientistNovember 11th, 2014"We wanted to be able to use brainwaves to control genes. It's the first time anyone has linked synthetic biology and the mind," says a bioengineer who led the team behind the work.
Displaying 1-10 of 176  
Next >> 
Last Page » 
« Show Complete List » 


ESPAÑOL | PORTUGUÊS | Русский

home | overview | blog | publications| about us | donate | newsletter | press room | privacy policy

CGS • 1936 University Ave, Suite 350, Berkeley, CA 94704 • • (p) 1.510.665.7760 • (F) 1.510.665.8760