Science and Technology Innovation Program
Deborah Johnson, Director, Program in Philosophy, Science and Technology; School of Public Policy; Georgia Institute of Technology
The Synthetic Biology Project aims to foster informed public and policy discourse concerning the advancement of synthetic biology – an emerging interdisciplinary field that uses advanced science and engineering to make or re-design living organisms, such as bacteria, so they can carry out specific functions. Synthetic biology involves making new genetic code, also known as DNA, which does not already exist in nature. The project provides independent, rigorous analysis that can inform critical decisions affecting the research, commercialization and use of synthetic biology. Its objective is to help ensure that, as synthetic biology moves forward, possible risks are minimized and benefits maximized. For more information, please visit: http://www.synbioproject.org.
The Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies released a report by one of the country's foremost authorities on environmental research and policy, J. Clarence Davies, which examines the strengths and weaknesses of the current regulatory framework for nanotechnology and calls for a new approach to nanotechnology oversight.
There has been little change in public awareness of either synthetic biology or nanotechnology since previous surveys, according to this 2013 poll of more than 800 U.S. adults. In the poll, 23 percent of adults say they have heard a lot or some about synthetic biology, compared with 31 percent who say the same about nanotechnology. The most common associations that respondents make with synthetic biology are that it is unnatural, man-made, and artificial or that it has to do with reproducing life.
A new report released today, Regulating the Products of Nanotechnology: Does FDA Have the Tools It Needs? by Michael Taylor, a former Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), examines the agency's capacity to properly regulate new products containing nanotechnology materials—including food, drugs, medical devices, dietary supplements and cosmetics.