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All Things Considered - "Synthetic Biology"

May 2, 2014
CQ Researcher examines the pros/cons to utilizing synthetic biology

CQ Researcher's April 2014 article, Synthetic Biology: Should Scientists Try to Create New Life Forms, delves into the benefits and hesitations of using synthetic biology to create new or improved medicines, fuels and other innovative products. The pro/con piece within the article showcases a debate between BIO's own Dr. Rina Singh, Senior Director, Industrial and Environmental and Jaydee Hanson, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Food Safety, and Policy Director, International Center for Technology Assessment. Both contributors had to address the question - Should there be a moratorium on synthetic biotechnology?

Dr. Rina Singh states that there does not need to be a moratorium on synthetic biotechnology:
"While the term 'synthetic biology' is relatively new, the science is not. Synthetic biology is an evolution of biotechnology and has been safely used in the development of products that provide societal benefits....

"With a new wealth of genomic data, scientists have increased the speed, precision and predictability of bio-based products. The biotechnology industry has had a decades-long record of safety under the current regulatory regime...

"The U.S. economy, our environment and human health all benefit from biotech and synthetic biology innovations, and we expect even more significant advances in the future."

On the other side, Jaydee Hanson states that there does need to be a moratorium on synthetic biotechnology:
"Synthetic biology needs regulations tailored to this new science...The first products of synthetic biology are leaving the laboratory, mostly made from new microorganisms approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under its Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) process, which allows the company - not the FDA - to assess product safety. GRAS should not be used for any food additives, much less additives produced using this extreme form of genetic engineering."

"Now is the time to develop regulations for synthetic biology, not after synthetic biologists release the next kudzu or gypsy moth. Those destructive organisms grew for decades before we realized that they should not have been introduced into the United States by scientists."

We encourage you to read the pro/con piece and synthetic biology article in its entirety here.

A reminder that this year's World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology will be held May 12-15, 2014 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

Breakout Program Sessions on synthetic biology and genomics research include:

New Enzymes and New Chemical Pathways
Session 1: Tuesday, May 13, 8:30am-10:00am

  • Moderator: Jamie Bacher, Pareto Biotechnologies

  • Eric Althoff, Arzeda Corp.

  • Ian Fotheringham, Ingenza, Ltd.

  • Thomas Grotkjaer, Novozymes

  • Roberto Carrillo, ENMEX

Beyond Transgenics: Biotechnology Tools to Enhance Value
Session 2: Tuesday, May 13, 10:30am-12:00pm

  • Moderator: Tom Wedegaertner, Cotton Incorporated

  • Eric Mathur, Yulex

  • R. Michael Raab, Agrivida

  • David McElroy, Nova Synthetix

  • Toni Voelker, Monsanto

Public Perception for an Emerging Technology 
Session 3: Tuesday, May 13, 2:30pm-4:00pm

  • Moderator: Melody Bomgardner, Chemical & Engineering News

  • Stephan Herrera, Evolva SA

  • John Hallagan, Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA)

  • Jason Kelly, Gingko Bioworks

  • Linda Eatherton, Ketchum

Microbial Conversions and Metabolic Engineering to Renewable Chemicals
Session 4: Wednesday, May 14, 2:30pm-4:00pm

  • Moderator: Kevin Jarrell, Modular Genetics, Inc.

  • Kevin Jarrell, Modular Genetics, Inc.

  • Claes Gustafsson, DNA2.0

  • Sean O'Connor, Nucelis Inc.

  • Dave Schisler, Cargill, Inc.

  • Ramesh Nair, Chromatin Inc.

Fermentation Process Design and Separation Techniques
Session 5: Thursday, May 15, 8:30am-10:00am

  • Moderator: Frank Liotta, Virent Inc.

  • Kyle Teamey, Liquid Light

  • Fatemeh Shirazi, Microvi Biotech, Inc.

  • Donald Glatz, Koch Modular Process Systems, LLC

    Niloofar Abdehagh, University of Ottawa

  • Niloofar Abdehagh, University of Ottawa

Genome Engineering for Industrial Applications
Session 6: Thursday, May 15, 10:30am-12:00pm

  • Moderator: Nagib Ward, Deinove

  • Eric Kmiec, Delaware State University

  • Nokuthula McHunu, Durban University of Technology

  • Gajanan Naik, Gulbarga University

  • Nigel Mouncey, Dow AgroSciences