Last week an editorial in the journal Science raised important questions about the safety of synthetic biology. In particular, it asked whether we can ensure safe practices in the more shady research arenas, such as the DIY synthetic biology movements.
In 2014, the European Commission defined synthetic biology as, "the application of science, technology and engineering to facilitate and accelerate the design, manufacture and modification of genetic materials in living organisms".
It was followed last month by a draft opinion from the commission’s scientific committees that focuses on risks in synthetic biology. Specifically, it asked whether the methods used to assess the potential risks of the field were sufficient.
To discuss the implications, Ian Sample is joined by Nicola Davis, commissioning editor of Observer Tech Monthly, and Professor Paul Freemont from Imperial College, London, who is co-director of its Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation. Dr Filippa Lentzos from King’s College London also joins us down the line from Switzerland.