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Emerging Policy Issues in Synthetic Biology

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Synthetic biology is at such an early stage of development that there is no uniform agreement as yet about what it actually is. To some, it represents a natural extension of genetic engineering, and therefore is “business as usual”. For others, it is a way to bring mass manufacturing out from the decades of biotechnology research. Currently the discipline is limited by the ability to synthesise DNA cost-effectively but this is a technical barrier that it is anticipated will be overcome. Synthetic biology raises a number of policy issues around R&D funding, company investment, PPP arrangements and innovative financing, infrastructure requirements, education and training, intellectual property (IP), regulation, and public engagement. In preparation for the continuing development and greater use of synthetic biology, some countries have started to prepare synthetic biology technical roadmaps and a global roadmap for the medium term would be an extremely useful policy tool. Technical roadmaps could both identify likely future policy requirements, and be a useful vehicle in public engagement.

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Foreword

Synthetic biology is an emerging technology that shows promise for investigating some of the burning issues in biological research. It also has the potential to address some of the grand challenges facing society, such as climate change and energy security. Some argue that it has the potential to create a new manufacturing paradigm and has obvious roles in a future bioeconomy. With the creation of engineering standards, it is hoped that synthetic biology will enable mass manufacturing based on several decades of biotechnology research and development.

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