BIO Welcomes New Report Detailing Policy Options to Ensure Responsible Use of Synthetic Biology

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 6, 2007) – The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) today applauded the report “Synthetic Genomics: Options for Governance,” released by the J. Craig Venter Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The report assesses the current state of synthetic biology and formulates policies that can support continued research and development of beneficial applications and prevent possible misuses of the technology.

“Synthetic genomics is rapidly expanding the field of industrial biotechnology research and creating new opportunities to produce environmentally friendly fuels and biobased products, low-cost chemicals and pharmaceuticals, as well as new nutritional products and food ingredients,” said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section. “Industrial biotechnology is the key enabling technology in the U.S. effort to build a sustainable biobased economy and to reduce reliance on petroleum.”

The findings of the “Synthetic Genomics” report include:

·              There are at least 24 companies within the United States and 21 in other countries – notably Germany and Canada – engaged in commercial synthesis of gene- and genome-length DNA.

·              Improvements in the speed and cost of DNA synthesis are opening the field of industrial biotechnology to new participants (e.g., engineers seeking new tools).

·              DNA synthesis has already been applied in research on new or improved drugs – for example, the antimalarial drug artemisinin.

·              Synthetic genomics could help produce biological routes to cost-effective biofuels, including hydrocarbons, and renewable chemical platforms.

·              Biobased manufacturing using genetically enhanced microbes (GEMS) can produce the raw materials for environmentally friendly products or the pathways for cleaner methods of production.

Erickson continued, “The industrial biotechnology industry has a very good record regarding the responsible use of GEMS. The biotech research community and industry must also take actions to ensure the responsible conduct of synthetic genomics research. These actions will help maintain confidence among the public and regulatory authorities that the advancement of synthetic genomics will be beneficial to society. Designing ways to impede malicious uses, while at the same time promoting beneficial uses, of synthetic genomics is critically important to the development of this technology. This report is a thoughtful and encouraging step in the right direction.”

About BIO

BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and 31 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the annual BIO International Convention, the global event for biotechnology.

Upcoming BIO Events

Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy
November 14-16, 2007

World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing
April 27–30, 2008

BIO International Convention
June 17–20, 2008
San Diego