June 29, 2012

Managing Uncertainty: How to Assess, Test and Demonstrate Safety for Synthetic Biology Applications

On June 29, 2012, a diverse group of synthetic biologists, environmental microbiologists, public officials, and representatives from law firms, public interest groups, and other organizations attended an invitation-only workshop on environmental implications of synthetic biology at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.

At the meeting, attendees heard briefings on the latest research and discussed the best way to address uncertainty when assessing the environmental impacts of synthetic biology. The session built upon a series of 2011 workshops that examined environmental effects of an E.coli-based arsenic biosensor, a rE.coli chassis, and cyanobacteria modified to produce sugars.

The June 29 workshop continued the focus on rE coli and cyanobacteria, but with an emphasis on flagging sources of uncertainty on environmental effects and on evaluating methods of testing for fitness, genetic stability, and lateral gene transfer. Meeting organizers saw these topics as providing a foundation for the development of credible and sound protocols for assessing environmental risks.

In the coming weeks, a workshop report will be posted here.