Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Global Bioethics

pp 811-826


Synthetic Biology


Synthetic biology aims to bring to biology the principles of engineering, standardizing and modularizing the design of biological systems to make possible the development of biological systems that perform specified tasks. Several distinct lines of research fall under the general heading of synthetic biology. Examples of synthetic biology to date include the development of microorganisms that can produce a precursor to artemisinin (a drug for treating malaria) and fuels. The technology poses ethical and policy challenges concerning its risks and potential benefits, its socioeconomic impact and the implications for social justice, and the very idea of engineering living organisms. Many commentators have recommended that these questions should be addressed in a manner that engages the public, raising additional questions about how that is best done.