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Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center

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Policy and practices

The Policy and Practices cluster is one of Synberc’s four primary research efforts. It works with all Synberc researchers and partners to develop leading examples of responsible synthetic biology in practice, to the benefit of all people and the planet. From summer high school students to principal investigators, along with industry and government partners, we envision that each member of the Synberc community can help consider and develop leading examples of responsible synthetic biology.

Ken Oye (Director), Ken Oye, Pol Sci/Engineering Systems | MIT

Megan Palmer (Deputy Director), Biological Engineering | UC Berkeley, Stanford 


Chris Anderson, Bioengineering | UC Berkeley

Adam Arkin, Bioengineering | UC Berkeley

George Church, Bioengineering | Harvard

Karmella Haynes | ASU
Drew Endy, Biological Engineering | Stanford

Samuel Evans | UC Berkeley
Linda Kahl | Biobricks Foundation
Pamela Silver, Systems Biology | Harvard

Areas of research:

1. Biological Safety and Security: Develop learning materials that enable the next generation of biological engineers – the second biotechnology generation – to engage with, improve, and lead best practices with respect to research and laboratory biological safety. Also, implement a Synberc biological safety program to ensure that all Synberc research and researchers uphold best practices with respect to biological safety.  Lastly, partner with law enforcement and other relevant professionals, as needed, to advance policies and interactions promoting biological security. 

2. Beyond Containment: Enable dialog between regulators, policy makers, and researchers that leads to shared understanding of needs and requirements regarding the engineering of microbes for release beyond controlled laboratory environments.  Identify opportunities for synthetic biology-enabled research that could improve best available technologies for mitigating or managing risks associated with environmental deployment of engineered microbes (e.g., in an open pond, or within a human patient).

3. Ownership, Sharing, and Innovation:  Establish working knowledge of the enabling technologies used by practitioners of synthetic biology.  Conduct basic and applied research on exploring how property rights specific to enabling technologies might best be organized to support the advancement of synthetic biology.  Importantly, carry out such work in a way that improves opportunities for long term Synberc sustainability and increases potential funding for the broader academic and commercial synthetic biology research communities.

4. Community and Leadership: Foster and support a diverse community of scholars and practitioners who are working together to best advance synthetic biology. Identify and constructively bring forward existing or emerging gaps, needs, or issues regarding the responsible practice of synthetic biology.  Connect with relevant partners to advance consideration of current and future needs and opportunities for synthetic biology.