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About Synthetic Biology


"Synthetic biology" is an umbrella term that refers to a new set of powerful techniques for manipulating the fundamental molecular structures of life, including genes, genomes, cells and proteins. Techniques being developed under the "synthetic biology" rubric include the modification of existing bacteria to produce useful substances or perform new functions, the creation of novel artificial organisms from "scratch," and — less noted to date — the modification of animal and human genes.

Synthetic biologists foresee a host of human applications, including new methods to produce drugs, biofuels and vaccines; to diagnose, prevent and cure disease; and — far more controversially — to screen, select, and modify genes for specified traits in embryos, children, and adults. Nonetheless, the field remains in its early days, and separating hype from real potential remains difficult.

While diverse constituencies have voiced concerns about ecological and biosecurity risks, little attention has so far been called to the dangers connected to synthetic biology's human applications. Synthetically engineered viruses and pathogens and synthetic organisms released in the human body such as "tumor eating" bacteria, for example, pose profound dangers to human health.

Synthetic biology also presents dangers of a different kind if the field spawns forms of human genetic manipulation that heretofore have been impracticable. These include human reproductive cloning, the creation of "designer babies" through inheritable genetic modification, and other purported "enhancements." Leading figures in the synthetic biology field have in fact predicted, and in some cases embraced, such eugenic visions.

Such prospects raise concerns for social justice, human rights, and equality. However, at present, no comprehensive framework for assessment, oversight and regulation of synthetic biology exists nationally or internationally.


Rewriting the Code of Lifeby Michael SpecterNew YorkerJanuary 2nd, 2017Combining gene drive and CRISPR/Cas9 technologies, Kevin Esvelt is in an unusual position. There has never been a more powerful biological tool, or one with more potential to both improve the world and endanger it.
In an engineered world, who benefits from biological diversity?by Molly Bond and Deborah ScottThe GuardianDecember 22nd, 2016Without agreements at an international level, it seems unlikely that the future bioeconomy will be fair, especially when so much hype and hope rides on the use of big biodata.
Four Steps Forward, One Leap Back on Global Governance of Synthetic Biologyby ETC GroupETC GroupDecember 19th, 2016196 countries meeting at the UN Convention on Biodiversity grappled with how synthetic biology and other risky technologies threaten biodiversity, local economies, and the rights of farmers and Indigenous Peoples.
Biopolitical News of 2016by Pete Shanks, Leah Lowthorp & Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesDecember 13th, 2016We highlight 2016’s trends in and top news stories about human biotech developments.
Why the hype around medical genetics is a public enemyby Nathaniel ComfortAeonDecember 12th, 2016The progress of science is the steady realisation of how little we actually know. The more we, the public, understand that, the more we will see through the hype.
Should We Rewrite the Human Genome?by Alex HardingXconomyNovember 28th, 2016Critics worry that a synthetic human genome could be used in unethical ways. Unlike for clinical trials, there is no regulatory body for basic science research.
Obama’s Science Advisors Are Worried About Future CRISPR Terrorismby Daniel OberhausVICE MotherboardNovember 21st, 2016While the form biological threats will take in the future is uncertain, what is certain is that the United States is not at all prepared to deal with them.
The Field of Synthetic Biology Runs on Speculative Fictionby Jason KoeblerVICE MotherboardNovember 18th, 2016As technology advances and draws us closer to unknown dimensions that may parallel sci-fi worlds, conversations must be inclusive of voices beyond science and industry.
Synthetic human genome project releases its draft timelineby Ike SwelitzStat NewsOctober 28th, 2016HGP-Write rebrands itself suggesting broader visions to synthesize "all sorts of...genomes, not just humans," but issues of transparency loom.
Mouse eggs made from skin cells in a dishby David CyranoskiNatureOctober 17th, 2016A research breakthrough sparks debate over the prospect of using stem cell techniques to produce synthetic human eggs from body tissue.
Designer and Discarded Genomesby Ruha Benjamine-flux ArchitectureOctober 12th, 2016Field notes from a Harvard meeting on a "synthetic human genome" moonshot reveal the anti-democratic foundations of HGP-Write.
‘Motherless babies!’ How to create a tabloid science headline in five easy stepsby Gretchen VogelScience MagazineSeptember 14th, 2016Here's the recipe for transforming a modest developmental biology paper into a blockbuster story.
Passing My Disability On to My Childrenby Sheila BlackThe New York TimesSeptember 7th, 2016Drawing on hew own experience, the author challenges the logic of creating "designer babies" with screening or modifying technologies.
The Perils of Planned Extinctionsby Claire Hope CummingsProject SyndicateSeptember 6th, 2016Instead of taking time to fully consider the ethical, ecological, and social issues of gene-drive technology, many are aggressively promoting its use in conservation.
Another Scathing Report Causes More Eminent Heads to Roll in the Macchiarini Scandalby Gretchen VogelScience MagazineSeptember 6th, 2016Fallout continues from a scandal involving patient deaths after a surgeon implanted artificial tracheae seeded with stem cells.
Why Gene Tests for Cancer Don't Offer More Answersby Jessica WapnerScientific AmericanAugust 29th, 2016Genetic profiling of tumors has a long way to go. Many patients learn that their cancers have mutations for which no drug exists
Forget Ideology, Liberal Democracy’s Newest Threats Come From Technology and Bioscienceby John NaughtonThe GuardianAugust 28th, 2016Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, reviewed here, argues that "In the 21st century, those who ride the train of progress will acquire divine abilities of creation and destruction, while those left behind will face extinction."
Accessible Synthetic Biology Raises New Concerns for DIY Biological Warfareby Joseph NeighborVICE MotherboardAugust 23rd, 2016The monopoly on biology once held by governments and universities has been broken, posing significant challenges for the international community.
Experimental Cancer Therapy Holds Great Promise — But at Great Costby Meghana KeshavanSTATAugust 23rd, 2016Patients undergoing immunotherapy clinical trials with CAR-T cells are at risk for deadly cytokine release syndrome, but pharmaceutical companies are racing to get FDA approval.
Humans of the Future Could Be Much Faster Than Usain Bolt or Michael PhelpsSouth China Morning PostAugust 23rd, 2016We could be getting closer to the post-human era, where we modify our own genetics to the point that we're less recognisably "human" than ever before.
Gene Mapping May Not Be for Everyoneby Karen WeintraubUSA TodayAugust 22nd, 2016Genetic tests reveal variations in the genome that might not cause problems but could lead to unnecessary medical tests, anxiety and treatments.
Staying Ahead of Technology’s Curvesby Doug HillBoston GlobeAugust 21st, 2016Embracing disruptive technologies without trying to anticipate and prepare for their potential consequences is now, more than ever, a bad idea.
In CRISPR Fight, Co-Inventor Says Broad Institute Misled Patent Officeby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewIs an email between competing researchers a smoking gun in the billion-dollar battle over patent rights for gene editing?
To Err is Biotechnological: Reflections on Pew’s Human Enhancement Surveyby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorAugust 9th, 2016Biotechnologies aimed at human enhancement come with a guaranteed set of deficits, inadequacies, inconveniences, and risks.
Human Enhancement Freaks People Out, Study Finds; Designer Babies Might 'Meddle With Nature'by Ed CaraMedical DailyJuly 26th, 2016Survey reveals more wariness than excitement for genetic technologies that would 'enhance' people.
Why Kickstarter’s Glowing Plant Left Backers in the Darkby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewJuly 15th, 2016Do-it-yourself biologists who hit the crowdfunding jackpot have learned that genetic engineering isn’t so easy after all.
The Disappointing NAS Gene Drive Reportby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJune 30th, 2016The National Academies report on gene drive technology has not yet provoked the widespread debate it deserves.
Public Interest Organization Comment on Synthetic Human Genome Project[Press statement]June 2nd, 2016Twenty-five scientists and corporate figures call for a ten-year project to construct a synthetic human genome from scratch.
Netherlands gives green light for growing human embryos by Agence France-PresseThe GuardianMay 27th, 2016The Dutch government sanctions "limited research" to help infertile couples and to tackle hereditary or congenital diseases.
Ethical Questions Loom Over Efforts to Make a Human Genome from Scratchby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewMay 25th, 2016Printing genomes on demand could mean custom-built organisms, difficult ethical questions, and profits for a handful of companies.
Four steps to rebuild trust in biologyby Filipo Lentzos & Nicholas EvansThe GuardianMay 23rd, 2016Secrecy, safety breaches and controversial experiments are risking the reputation of biomedical science.
Orphan Black emphasizes the science in its sci-fi with a disturbing chapter on eugenicsby Caroline FramkeVoxMay 15th, 2016The BBC America series about human clones is now tackling the personal, scientific, and societal implications of eugenics, gene editing, and germline engineering.
Let people most affected by gene editing write CRISPR rulesby Jessica HamzelouNew ScientistApril 29th, 2016The US National Academies' committee on human gene editing held a discussion in Paris at the French National Academy of Medicine.
Save the Mosquitosby Ashley DawsonJacobinApril 22nd, 2016We should fight Zika with better public health, not genetically modified mosquitos.
GMOs 2.0: Reengineering Life, from Plants to PeopleWebcast - April 14, 2016 An online discussion about the new generation of genetic modification techniques, and the social issues they raise.
Gene-edited CRISPR mushroom escapes US regulationby Emily WaltzNatureApril 14th, 2016A mushroom has become the first CRISPR-edited organism to attain approval for sale without USDA regulation.
The Scientific Swap Meet Behind the Gene-Editing Boomby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewApril 8th, 2016A Cambridge non-profit called AddGene, described as "Amazon.com for biological parts," ships CRISPR-Cas9 parts all over the world.
CRISPR dispute raises bigger patent issues that we’re not talking aboutby Shobita ParthasarathyThe ConversationApril 4th, 2016CRISPR patents will confer enormous control over how the controversial technology develops, and what kinds of human genetic engineering might become commercially available.
Eugenics Revisited: Author Asks if We're Ready for Genetically Modified Humansby Howard LovyForeword ReviewsMarch 24th, 2016In an interview about his book GMO Sapiens: The Life-Changing Science of Designer Babies, Paul Knoepfler describes the intensifying debates over the creation of genetically modified human beings.
‘Minimal’ cell raises stakes in race to harness synthetic lifeby Ewen CallawayNature NewsMarch 24th, 2016Craig Venter’s latest creation comes as CRISPR gene-editing methods provide alternative ways to tinker with life’s building blocks.
Scientists develop new human stem cells with half a genomeby Bill BerkrotReutersMarch 16th, 2016Stem cells derived from a human egg are the first human cells known to be capable of division with just one copy of the parent cell's genome.
The Possibility Of A Three-Parent Baby[cites CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by Indira LakshamananThe Diane Rehm ShowFebruary 25th, 2016A discussion about the science, ethics, and politics of a controversial technique that is a form of inheritable genetic modification.
What’s the difference between genetic engineering and eugenics?by Robert GebelhoffThe Washington PostFebruary 22nd, 2016Where we draw the line between "negative eugenics" and "positive genetic intervention" is a political question.
Who's Looking to Profit from Human Germline Changes?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJanuary 28th, 2016Billionaire Randal Kirk has assembled the components to commercialize heritable human genetic modification.
Why Is Editas Going Public? by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJanuary 14th, 2016Editas, the gene-editing company founded by several of the scientists who developed CRISPR technology, announced on January 4th that it had filed preliminary paperwork for a public offering of stock.
Synthetic Biology's Defense Dollars: Signals and Perceptions by Dr. Filippa LentzosPLOS BlogsDecember 24th, 2015DARPA aims to develop radically new, game-changing technologies for national security and to create technological surprises for its enemies.
Livetweeting #GeneEditSummit: Democratized Debate or Segregated Conversations?by Elliot Hosman, Biopolitical TimesDecember 10th, 2015Though #GeneEditSummit was trending on Twitter, inclusive public debate must be more robust than the livetweeting of insular stakeholder meetings.
Extreme Genetic Engineering and the Human FutureReclaiming Emerging Biotechnologies for the Common GoodThe Center for Genetics and Society and Friends of the Earth examine the human applications of synthetic biology. This 50-page report challenges claims that this new set of genetic engineering techniques should be seen as "the future of manufacturing, engineering and medicine."
Gene Therapy: Comeback? Cost-Prohibitive?by Elliot Hosman, Biopolitical TimesNovember 19th, 2015Recent CRISPR news sometimes confuses germline modification - which should be put off limits - and gene therapy, which presents its own set of social and ethical risks to resolve before rushing to market.
[UK] Baby girl is first in the world to be treated with 'designer immune cells'by Ian SampleThe GuardianNovember 5th, 2015Genetically engineered cells were used to successfully treat an aggressive form of childhood leukaemia, though the experimental treatment had only been tested on mice.
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Scienceby Kristine MattisCounterpunchOctober 5th, 2015The false association between anti-GMO and anti-science sentiment obscures the lack of scientific consensus about the health and environmental effects of genetically modified crops.
Disgraced Scientist Clones Dogs, and Critics Question His Intentby Rob SteinNPRSeptember 30th, 2015Sooam Biotech, founded by scientific pariah Hwang Woo Suk, has cloned over 600 dogs for $100,000 each. The process works only one-third of the time and is risky.
CRISPR Democracy: Gene Editing and the Need for Inclusive Deliberationby J. Benjamin Hurlbut, Krishanu Saha, & Sheila JasanoffIssues in Science and TechnologySeptember 21st, 2015CRISPR raises basic questions about the rightful place of science in governing the future in democratic societies.
Why there’s an urgent need for a moratorium on gene editingby Vivek WadhwaWashington PostSeptember 8th, 2015Changing human DNA creates a frightening ethical grey zone; no one is prepared for an era when editing DNA is as easy as editing a Microsoft Word document.
Biotech Imagination: Whose Future is this?by Jessica CussinsSeptember 8th, 2015A feature in PLOS Biology highlights insider predictions about the next ten years in genetics and genomics with unanimous optimism. But whose future is this?
How We Should Rethink the Role of Technical Expertise in GMO Regulation[India]by Dhvani Mehta and Yashaswini MittalThe WireAugust 31st, 2015The regulation of GMOs represents a good opportunity to rethink the role of public participation and non-technical knowledge in environmental regulatory discourse in general.
Biohackers Gear Up for Genome Editingby Heidi LedfordNature NewsAugust 26th, 2015DIY labs and synthetic biology "amateurs" are working with cheap and easy-to-use CRISPR gene-editing technology to create novel GM organisms, causing concerns about regulation and safety.
Alphabet/Google Isn’t Evil but Genetically Modifying Mosquitos Might Beby Mic WrightThe Next WebAugust 25th, 2015Recent biotech hype about using gene drive to reduce global malaria is best understood as a new chapter in humanity's historically poor record of forcibly changing ecosystems.
CRISPR: The Latest Biotech Hypeby Anne Fausto-SterlingBoston ReviewAugust 24th, 2015What began with an attempt to build a better yogurt now has journalists speculating about Brave New World scenarios, but the bio-hype relies on a false model of genetic determinism.
Conversation with Kelly Hills: Human Genetic Modification & Bioethicsby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogAugust 20th, 2015“It can be very tempting, when `doing science,’ to merely think about the pieces in front of you: I’m swapping out broken DNA for something better! But…how do we define broken? How do we define better?”
Where’s the Beef? Why I Disagree with Pinker on CRISPRby Paul KnoepflerKnoepfler Lab Stem Cell BlogAugust 17th, 2015"The bottom line is that the keys to a constructive path forward on CRISPR-Cas9 and human genetic modification overall will be more data as well as balance in discussion and policy making."
Surgeons Smash Records with Pig-to-Primate Organ Transplantsby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewAugust 12th, 2015A biotech company is genetically engineering pigs so that their organs might work in people.
CRISPR Race Heats Up As Gates, Crossovers Put $120M Into Editas by Ben FidlerXconomyAugust 10th, 2015Some of the biggest names on Wall Street and elsewhere are handing the largest round of funding yet to a CRISPR-Cas9 startup.
Designing Life from Scratch: A Fledgling Field is About to Take Offby Lisa M. KriegerSan Jose Mercury NewsAugust 8th, 2015Scientists increasingly are designing life from scratch, using inexpensive, fast and accurate tools to create and assemble strands of DNA like tinkertoys.
UC Irvine to Exhibit Artworks Created via Biological Engineeringby Mike BoehmLos Angeles TimesJuly 31st, 2015Artists who want to manipulate the building blocks of life as we know it to create art as we’ve never known it.
CRISPR/Cas Gene-Editing Technique Holds Great Promise, but Research Moratorium Makes Sense Pending Further Study by Jeff Bessen The Conversation July 29th, 2015In the enthusiasm and hype surrounding CRISPR, it is easy to forget that the technology has been in wide use for barely three years and the accompanying risks are not yet known.
Cutting-Edge Technology and Mitochondrial Diseases - Where is the Limit?by Dusko IlicBioNewsJuly 27th, 2015In their latest study, Shoukrat Mitalipov and collaborators report on two potential 'gene correction' strategies that can help patients with mitochondrial diseases.
The Power to Remake a Species[quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Rebecca BoyleFuture of Life Institute July 23rd, 2015CRISPR could be used to eliminate malaria-carrying mosquitoes, but further public discussion is needed.
The Regulatory System May Not Be Ready for Synthetic Organismsby Susana MedeirosRegBlogJuly 15th, 2015Synthetic microorganisms could reproduce, spread, and compete with natural organisms, and evolve to pose risks to humans, animals, and the environment.
"Jurassic World" and the Dinosaurs at the USDAby Rachel SmolkerTruthoutJune 22nd, 2015The regulations of the US Department of Agriculture are in desperate need of an overhaul if they are to protect the public from the derailing of billions of years of evolution for the purpose of corporate profit-making.
The De-Extincting Science in Jurassic World Is Right Around the Cornerby Maddie StoneGizmodoJune 10th, 2015The prospect of bringing back extinct creatures is looking a lot less science fictional.
Brave New Genomeby Eric S. LanderNew England Journal of MedicineJune 3rd, 2015It has been only about a decade since we first read the human genome. We should exercise great caution before we begin to rewrite it.
Tired Tropes and New Twists in the Debate about Human Germline Modificationby Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesMay 28th, 2015Techno-enthusiasts now argue that as we think about the human future, we should rule out considering what we might learn from works of literature and film, as well as those aspects of myth, policy and history they don’t like.
Reframing "De-extinction" by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMay 28th, 2015Beth Shapiro is advocating for a new definition of "de-extinction" that stresses the ecological niche over genetic identity. She envisages using novel creatures to change entire ecologies.
Regulate Gene Editing in Wild Animalsby Jeantine LunshofNature World ViewMay 12th, 2015Unless properly regulated and contained, this research has the potential to rapidly alter ecosystems in irreversible and damaging ways.
DNA 'Printing' A Big Boon To Research, But Some Raise Concerns[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Rob SteinNPRMay 7th, 2015"Heinz talks openly about everybody being able to create entirely novel creatures... Do we want the teenager next door to be creating Godzilla in the bathtub? I don't want that."
DIY Bio-Engineering: Disrupting Democracyby Colleen CordesBiopolitical Times guest contributorMay 1st, 2015The Do-It-Yourself synthetic biology movement (or, DIY synbio) is not advocating "citizen science," let alone "democratizing science." It's not about science or democracy.
CRISPR Germline Editing Reverberates Through Biotech Communityby BioentrepreneurNature News BlogApril 30th, 2015The group has called for a discussion of the potential merits and risks of the technology and a global moratorium on germline applications, until such time, if ever, responsible uses can be identified.
The Printed Organs Coming to a Body Near Youby Heidi LedfordNatureApril 15th, 2015From kidneys to hands, 3D printers are churning out made-to-order bones and rudimentary organs.
DARPA, Synthetic Biology and Human Germline Engineering by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesApril 9th, 2015The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is committed to synthetic biology as one of its four main project areas, and may be involved in human germline experiments.
The Next Manhattan Projectby Patrick TuckerThe AtlanticApril 7th, 2015Anticipating cutting-edge scientific research before it happens may be key to protecting against bioterrorism.
The Pentagon Is Putting Big Money Into Synthetic Biologyby Dan VerganoBuzzFeed NewsMarch 30th, 2015Genetically engineered bacteria, bionic limbs, and synthetic vaccines will help the U.S. build a more powerful military, according to DARPA, the Pentagon’s futuristic research arm.
The Brave New World of DNA Synthesisby Jeffrey MarlowWiredMarch 30th, 2015DNA synthesis companies range from scrappy start-ups to Cambridge-area behemoths, each touting a distinct set of tools that carves out a slice of the ever-increasing pie.
The Brave New World of DNA Synthesisby Jeffrey MarlowWiredMarch 30th, 2015DNA synthesis companies range from scrappy start-ups to Cambridge-area behemoths, each touting a distinct set of tools that carves out a slice of the ever increasing pie.
New DNA Tech: Creating Unicorns and Curing Cancer for Real?by David Ewing DuncanThe Daily BeastMarch 30th, 2015We have the earth-shattering technology in our hands—but even its inventors worry about its awesome power to alter our genetic future.
Who Needs a Synthetic Biological "Safety Lock"? by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesFebruary 4th, 2015Two papers published simultaneously in Nature on January 21 describe a novel strategy for biocontainment, involving a strain of E. Coli that is dependent on a synthetic amino acid.
Scientists Develop Technique Aimed at Preventing Spread of Bio-Engineered Organismsby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesJanuary 21st, 2015Could genetically modified bacteria escape from a laboratory or fermentation tank and cause disease or ecological destruction? Two groups of scientists hope to use synthetic biology to prevent it from happening.
AI Has Arrived, and That Really Worries the World’s Brightest Mindsby Robert McMillanWiredJanuary 16th, 2015Artificial intelligence experts and other scientists warn that the "intelligence explosion" could spell doom for the human race.
Error or Terror: Controlling Emerging Technologyby John DrzikCNBCJanuary 15th, 2015We need to encourage innovation, but also set a course for rigorous risk governance of emerging technologies. It is much better to confront difficult issues now than endure disastrous consequences later.
Bad Boy Scientism by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJanuary 8th, 2015Austen Heinz of Cambrian Genomics has been spouting provocative opinions to get attention. And it seems to be working, from his point of view.
Controversial DNA Startup Wants to Let Customers Create Creatures[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Stephanie M. LeeSan Francisco ChronicleJanuary 3rd, 2015With the latest technology and generous funding, a growing number of startups are taking science and medicine to the edge of science fiction.
2014 in Biomedicine: Rewriting DNA, Decoding the Brain, and a GMO Paradoxby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewDecember 30th, 2014From genetically modified foods to gene therapy, 2014 was a big year for rewriting biology.
Biopolitical News of 2014by Pete Shanks, Jessica Cussins & Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesDecember 19th, 2014This is everything important that happened in biopolitics in 2014 (or close to it).
Top Biopolitical Times Posts of 2014by Jessica Cussins & Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesDecember 18th, 2014In 2014, CGS staffers and contributors posted 107 blogs in Biopolitical Times. These are twelve of our favorites.
Build a Pet Dinosaur or Your Perfect Childby Christine RosenSlateDecember 10th, 2014Synthetic biology entrepreneurs want each of us to become gods of our own creations.
CRISPR Opportunities … For What? And For Whom? by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesDecember 4th, 2014Money and deals are flowing into the companies founded on CRISPR technology, which promises to enable the precise editing of genomes.
Synthetic Enzymes Hint at Life Without DNA or RNAby Andy CoghlanNew ScientistDecember 1st, 2014For the first time, enzymes that don't exist in nature have been made from genetic material that doesn't exist in nature either, called XNA, or xeno nucleic acid.
The Vagina Bio-Hack That Wasn't: How Two 'Startup Bros' Twisted the 'Sweet Peach' Missionby Jessica CussinsThe Huffington PostNovember 26th, 2014Two male biotech CEOs announced they had created a bio-hack to make women's vaginas smell like peaches. It turns out they did not even create 'Sweet Peach,' and they got it all wrong.
Pigs to Peopleby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 24th, 2014Synthetic biology takes aim at xenotransplantation.
Cellular 'Computers' Gain a Hard Driveby Brendan BorrellNature NewsNovember 14th, 2014DNA-based memory can record multiple inputs from engineered gene circuits.
Synthetic Biologist Aims to Create Pig with Human Lungsby Lisa M. KriegerSan Jose Mercury NewsNovember 14th, 2014Led by scientists like Venter and Endy, the once-fledgling field of synthetic biology has surged in commercial interest.
Human Thoughts Used to Switch on Genes by Helen ThomsonNew ScientistNovember 11th, 2014"We wanted to be able to use brainwaves to control genes. It's the first time anyone has linked synthetic biology and the mind," says a bioengineer who led the team behind the work.
Africa: Synthetic Biology - Artificial Life Threatens Nature and Societyby Glenn AshtonAllAfricaOctober 30th, 2014Biologists continue to push the boundaries of their ability to alter life on earth in novel and unpredictable ways. The latest version is known as synthetic biology, or "synbio."
Video Animation Explores Risks of Treating Life as a MachineETC GroupOctober 29th, 2014Increasingly, scientists and civil society are sounding the alarm about the risks posed by unregulated commercialization of SynBio’s untested, experimental and unprecedented manipulation of life form.
Synthetic Biologists Create Paper-Based Diagnostic for Ebolaby Karen WeintraubMIT Technology ReviewOctober 24th, 2014Scientists say they can embed sophisticated genetic tests onto a piece of paper.
Regulate Synthetic Biology Now: 194 CountriesSynBioWatchOctober 17th, 2014In a unanimous decision of 194 countries, the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity formally urged nation states to regulate synthetic biology.
Resurrecting Smallpox? Easier Than You Thinkby Leonard AdlemanThe New York TimesOctober 15th, 2014The smallpox virus has now found a second host. It is not the pig. In fact, it is not even what we think of as a living thing. It is the computer.
Let's Play God (or not)by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesOctober 14th, 2014Reason magazine earns points for honesty about wanting to use gene drives to "play God" — and for editing skills.
Synthetic Biology Is What, Exactly?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesOctober 1st, 2014The European Commission is the latest body to struggle with defining the term synthetic biology, and has produced a 65-page report.
If Synthetic Biology Lets us Play God, we Need RulesZócalo Public SquareSeptember 23rd, 2014Soon we could be able to program DNA with the same ease we program computers. What new responsibilities will be imposed on us?
Drew Endy's Hollywood Dreams for Synthetic Biologyby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 18th, 2014Stanford professor Drew Endy is convinced that this is the century of biology, and in particular of making things with biology, but is concerned that popular media do not seem to reflect this.
If We Create Life, Who Will Control It?by Marcelo GleiserNPRSeptember 17th, 2014It is the world of the future, and we must have some control over where it's going. But how?
On the Irreversibility of Gene Drivesby Noam PrywesThe ScientistSeptember 16th, 2014Should researchers genetically modify wild populations of mosquitoes to curb vector-borne diseases like malaria?
“Evolution right now is in the marketplace”by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 11th, 2014George Church is as outrageous as ever, while both transhumanist ideas and concerns about increasing inequality are receiving more attention.
Editing DNA Could be Genetic Medicine Breakthrough[References CGS]by Stephanie M. LeeSan Francisco ChronicleSeptember 7th, 2014A new way to make powerful changes at will to the DNA of humans, other animals and plants, much like how a writer changes words in a story, could usher in a transformation in genetic medicine.
Body Upgrades may be Nearing Reality, but Only for the Richby Ian SampleThe GuardianSeptember 5th, 2014Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari says expensive human enhancements will lead to a society more unequal than ever.
On the Horns of the GMO Dilemmaby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewSeptember 2nd, 2014Can genome-editing technology revive the idea of genetically modified livestock?
Synthetic biology goes for scaleby Joanna GlasnerReutersSeptember 2nd, 2014Synthetic biology, which uses engineered gene sequences to create new biological systems and devices, used to be a subject for futurists and sci-fi writers, but now is attracting large investments.
Biologists Choose Sides In Safety Debate Over Lab-Made Pathogensby Nell GreenfieldBoyceNPRAugust 13th, 2014A smoldering debate about whether researchers should ever deliberately create superflu strains and other risky germs in the interest of science has flared once again.
Failures and Risks in Biosafety Regulationby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJuly 24th, 2014Accidents at CDC and elsewhere point up the difficulties in regulating potentially dangerous releases of genetically modified organisms, which scientists are, quite responsibly, discussing.
C.D.C. Director Admits to Pattern of Unsafe Practicesby Denise GradyThe New York TimesJuly 16th, 2014Dr. Thomas Frieden admitted that recent laboratory accidents involving flu viruses and anthrax were not isolated mistakes, but part of a broader problem of unsafe practices at the agency.
It’s 10 o'Clock -- Do You Know Where Your Bubonic Plague Is?by Laurie GarrettForeign PolicyJuly 10th, 2014Spilled smallpox, missing SARS, and rogue scientists with mutant H1N1. If you’re not scared, you should be.
What-Syn-a-Name?by Jim ThomasThe GuardianJuly 8th, 2014Synthetic biology is attracting attention from both scientists and regulators. But there is little agreement on what it is. Can we find a road out of synthetic biology’s definitional quagmire?
On the New Alphabet of Lifeby George Estreich, Biopolitical Times guest contributorJune 6th, 2014On metaphors, stories, and synthetic nucleotides: rewriting the code of life.
When and How Will We Regulate Synthetic Biology?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJune 6th, 2014Several discussion documents about potential ways to regulate synthetic biology, nationally and internationally, have recently been published. They range from serious efforts to industry public relations exercises.
Venter Institute-Led Team Details Synbio Policy Challenges and OptionsGenetic Engineering and Biotechnology NewsMay 29th, 2014A new report details the challenges faced by regulators with the increased use of more sophisticated synthetic biology.
2-4-6-8, Novel Pairs to Replicateby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMay 29th, 2014A pair of artificial nucleotides have been inserted into E. coli, which reproduced the three base-pairs successfully until the source of nucleotides ran out.
Uninformed Tech Regulations Will Either Kill Innovation or Risk Human Livesby Jason KoeblerViceMay 27th, 2014How is the United States going to regulate new technologies that let people enhance and clone themselves, create synthetic organisms, and, perhaps, even cheat death?
Biotech Industry Cooks up PR Plans to Get us to Swallow Synthetic Biology Foodby Dana PerlsFood and Technology BlogMay 22nd, 2014Friends of the Earth exposes what was supposed to be a closed door and off-the-record industry meeting of some of the most powerful agribusiness, food and synthetic biology companies in the world.
A Synthetic Biology Conference Lures an Intriguing Audienceby John MarkoffThe New York TimesMay 9th, 2014When does a scientific conference warrant the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security? When the topic is synthetic biology.
Don’t Shut the Door on the Synthetic Biology Debateby Jack StilgoeThe GuardianMay 8th, 2014A new set of concerns arise about regulation of synthetic biology. SynBio will become what scientists, innovators, users, regulators and others make of it.
Scientists Add Letters to DNA’s Alphabet, Raising Hope and Fearby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesMay 7th, 2014Scientists report that they have taken a significant step toward altering the fundamental alphabet of life — creating an organism with an expanded artificial genetic code in its DNA.
Stephen Hawking: 'Transcendence Looks at the Implications of Artificial Intelligence - But are we Taking AI Seriously Enough?'by Stephen Hawking, Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark, Frank WilczekThe IndependentMay 1st, 2014Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks, says a group of leading scientists.
Transcendence: See it for its Cultural Relevance, Not its Plot Lineby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesMay 1st, 2014Transcendence won’t win you over with its dialogue or love scenes, but it’s a great springboard for pondering what quickly approaching developments in artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, and regenerative medicine may actually mean for society.
Synthetic Criticisms of Real Attempts to Regulate Biologyby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesApril 30th, 2014Richard Lewontin has written an article about synthetic biology for the New York Review of Books. Unfortunately, it’s not very good.
Beyond-DNA Dayby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesApril 25th, 2014With a patent now issued for CRISPR genome-editing technology, and the first gene therapy approved by the FDA, this DNA Day will be remembered not for increased understanding of the human genome, but for increased attempts to change it.
Broad Institute Gets Patent on Revolutionary Gene-Editing Method by Susan Young RojahnMIT Technology ReviewApril 16th, 2014The Harvard-MIT genomic science institute stays mute on how it will assert control over the tools expected to speed cures and change gene therapy.
Now They're Selling Synthetic Biology as Food?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesApril 16th, 2014The commercialization of synthetic biology has been mostly based on public relations. Now there are efforts to introduce the technology to make food additives, quietly.
Pharma to fork: How we'll swallow synthetic biologyby Colin BarrasNew ScientistApril 10th, 2014Our best antimalarial drug comes from a plant, but now modified microbes are brewing it in a factory. Synthetic biology has got real – and food may be next.
DARPA Carves Out New Division to Entice Biotech Talentby Kelly ServickScienceApril 3rd, 2014The US Department of Defense is making a concerted grasp at biotechnology. DARPA will consolidate biology research scattered across its existing divisions and possibly expand the arsenal of projects.
We May Already Know How we Will Cure Death—But Should we?by Christopher MimsQuartzMarch 29th, 2014A pair of advocates—they do legitimate research too, but their ardor is so intense, it’s hard to call them scientists—believe that they will, within their lifetimes, make ours the first generation of humans to live forever.
Synthetic Chromosomesby Gregory E. KaebnickBioethics ForumMarch 28th, 2014A team of scientists announced this week that it had successfully created one of the sixteen chromosomes found in yeast cells, marking a meaningful step forward in that part of genetic engineering dubbed synthetic biology.
Scientists Hail Synthetic Chromosome Advanceby David ShukmanBBCMarch 27th, 2014Scientists have created the first synthetic chromosome for yeast in a landmark for biological engineering and synthetic biology.
Sequencing Pioneer's Startup Plans to Promote Better Agingby Elizabeth PennisiScienceMarch 4th, 2014J. Craig Venter has jumped into biomedical sequencing with his latest venture, Human Longevity Inc., "a genomics and cell therapy-based diagnostic and therapeutic company" that should be up and running by summer.
The Mammoth Comethby Nathaniel RichThe New York TimesFebruary 27th, 2014Bringing extinct animals back to life is really happening — and it’s going to be very, very cool. Unless it ends up being very, very bad.
Are the Robots about to Rise? Google's New Director of Engineering Thinks So…by Carole CadwalladrThe GuardianFebruary 22nd, 2014Ray Kurzweil popularised the Teminator-like moment he called the 'singularity', when artificial intelligence overtakes human thinking. But now the man who hopes to be immortal is involved in the very same quest – on behalf of the tech behemoth.
Why the Promise of Cheap Fuel from Super Bugs Fell Shortby Martin LaMonicaMIT Technology ReviewFebruary 5th, 2014The sell-off of synthetic biology pioneer LS9 goes to show that making biofuels from genetically engineered microbes has yet to deliver economically.
Butting Heads Over "De-extinction"by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJanuary 16th, 2014Paul Ehrlich and Stewart Brand have written contrasting essays debating the idea of "de-extinction.”
Could Glow-in-the-Dark Tobacco Plants Light Up the Living Rooms of the Future?by Kristin HohenadelSlateJanuary 15th, 2014St Louis biotech company Bioglow has developed a genetically modified tobacco plant that glows in the dark, as a first step towards a world in which our highways and homes might be illuminated with the luminescent glow of plant life.
Biopolitical News of the Year 2013by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesDecember 19th, 2013For better and worse, 2013 has been a year in which several related issues familiar to those who follow human biotechnology moved into the wider sphere of public discussion.
New Ways to Engineer the Germlineby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesDecember 18th, 2013A look at a number of emerging techniques that could compromise the international consensus against human inheritable genetic modification.
Crispr Goes Commercial by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesDecember 5th, 2013A new company, Editas Medicine, has been founded by the scientists who developed Crispr gene-editing technology, with backing from several major venture capital funds.
Human Germline Hype Pings around the Globeby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 20th, 2013Crispr gene-editing technology gets a publicity push from a failing British newspaper.
Developing a Fax Machine to Copy Life on Marsby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesNovember 17th, 2013J. Craig Venter wants to detect life on Mars and bring it to Earth using a device called a digital biological converter.
Competition Launch to 'Brand' Synthetic Biology VanillaHispanic BusinessNovember 14th, 2013ETC Group and Friends of the Earth are launching a public design and branding competition to shine a spotlight on extreme genetic engineering used in our food.
Get a Whiff of 'Synthetic Biology'by Jim HightowerBoulder WeeklyNovember 7th, 2013Welcome once again to the phantasmagoric world of DNA manipulators. This branch of genetic engineering wizardry calls itself “synthetic biology.” That’s an oxymoron meaning “fake life.”
Synthetic Biology: Scientific Advances Outstrip Policy Discourseby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 7th, 2013Synthetic biology has been attracting general mainstream attention recently, not necessarily reflecting the latest scientific advances, which seem not to be engaging policymakers to the extent they should.
Grow Your Own: Where Scientists and Artists are Shaking up Creationby Oliver WainwrightThe GuardianOctober 27th, 2013From armpit brie to banana flavoured E.coli, artists and bio-hackers have teamed up to push the frontiers of 'synthetic biology' in a new exhibition.
Companies Rush to Build ‘Bio-Factories’ for Medicines, Flavorings and Fuelsby Ariana Eunjung ChaThe Washington PostOctober 24th, 2013"You can now build a cell the same way you might build an app for your iPhone."
Biology's Brave New WorldThe Promise and Perils of the Synbio Revolutionby Laurie GarrettForeign AffairsOctober 24th, 2013Synthetic genomics has spawned a dizzying array of new possibilities, challenges, and national security threats. The global bioterrorism and biosecurity establishment remains well behind the curve.
What’s That Smell? Exotic Scents Made From Re-engineered Yeastby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesOctober 20th, 2013A powerful form of genetic engineering could revolutionize the production of some of the most sought-after flavors and fragrances, but synthetic biology raises thorny issues.
Reprogrammed Bacterium Speaks New Language of Lifeby Linda GeddesNew ScientistOctober 17th, 2013A bacterium has had its genome recoded so that the standard language of life no longer applies, allowing the addition of genetic elements that don't exist in nature.
Craig Venter: 'This isn't a fantasy look at the future. We are doing the future'by Zoë CorbynThe GuardianOctober 12th, 2013The scientist dubbed biology's "bad boy" wants to talk about his new book. A reader could be forgiven for thinking it is really aimed at the Nobel prize committee.
Glowing plant project on Kickstarter sparks debate about regulation of DNA modificationby Ariana Eunjung ChaWashington PostOctober 3rd, 2013Who, if anyone, has the power to monitor the release of glowing seeds?
Plants That Glow in the Dark Spark Heated Debateby Josh DziezaThe Daily BeastAugust 18th, 2013Kickstarter has backed away from crowdfunding genetically modified organisms that can be released from the lab, but the debate over who gets to grow what continues to rage.
A Kickstop for Synthetic Biology?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesAugust 7th, 2013Environmentalists voiced alarm and outrage when the “glowing plants” project promised to send synthetic seeds to thousands around the world as part of a fundraising effort on Kickstarter. The crowdfunding site has now changed its regulations; offering GMOs as a reward will no longer be permitted.
A Lab-Grown Burger Gets a Taste Testby Henry FountainThe New York TimesAugust 5th, 2013A hamburger made from bovine stem cells was fried, served and eaten in London in an odd demonstration of one view of the future of food. The $325,000 project was paid for by Google founder Sergey Brin.
Kickstarter Bans Project Creators from Giving Away Genetically-Modified Organismsby Duncan GeereThe VergeAugust 2nd, 2013Following the success of the "Glowing Plants" project, the crowdfunding website Kickstarter is clamping down on genetically-modified organisms.
Challenges to Biosecurity From Advances in the Life Sciencesby Sergio BoninUN ChronicleJuly 18th, 2013Summary results of a qualitative risk assessment project on the biosecurity implications of developments in synthetic biology and nanobiotechnology.
Will Synthetic Biology Become a GM-Style Battleground? by David ShukmanBBC NewsJuly 11th, 2013Will the emerging science of designing and engineering new forms of life receive the same hostile reception as genetically modified food and crops?
Mice With Human Chromosomes - The Genetic Breakthrough That Could Revolutionise Medicine by Steve ConnorThe IndependentJuly 11th, 2013Scientists have created genetically-engineered mice with artificial human chromosomes in every cell of their bodies.
Center for Genetics and Society - Marcy Darnovsky on Initiative Radio with Angela McKenzie[With CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Angela McKenzieInitiative RadioJune 30th, 2013Marcy Darnovsky talks about the work to encourage responsible uses and effective governance of the new human genetic and reproductive technologies.
"Democratizing Creation" with Synthetic Biology and Glowing Plantsby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJune 27th, 2013A San Francisco company has raised nearly $500,000 via KickStarter to develop and distribute luminescent mustard plants and roses, in an apparent effort to jump-start commercial synthetic biology.
Real-Life True Blood: Synthetic Blood Is Coming — And So Are a Host of Potential Complicationsby Devon MaloneyWiredJune 14th, 2013Researchers at the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine got the go-ahead late last month to start developing synthetic blood with adult stem cells.
Glowing Plants: Awesome Kickstarter or Creepy Biotech?by Tom PhilpottMother JonesJune 10th, 2013The "Kickstopper" campaign seeks to halt the "glowing plants" Kickstarter project until a proper regulatory regime can be put into place for the release of synthetic organisms.
The Campaign Kickstarter Shouldn't Be Fundingby L. Jim ThomasThe Huffington PostJune 6th, 2013Kickstarter is set to hand hundreds of thousands of dollars to a controversial project for the widespread and unregulated distribution of over half a million extreme-bioengineered seeds.
De-Extinction Debate: Should Extinct Species Be Revived?by Liza GrossKQEDJune 5th, 2013As conservation scientists struggle to stem the catastrophic loss of biodiversity, some synthetic biologists want to resurrect extinct species with back-breeding, cloning and genetic engineering.
Discussing "De-Extinction"by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJune 5th, 2013A one-day conference, "De-extinction: Ethics, Law & Politics," included advocates of the idea, as well as environmentalists, animal welfare experts and philosophers expressing a range of concerns.
A Dream of Trees Aglow at Nightby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesMay 7th, 2013Two Singularity University alums started a project to develop plants that glow using synthetic biology, but environmental organizations have pointed out this will lead to the uncontrolled release of bioengineered seeds.
Direct Action? Seats at the Table? All of the Above?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMay 2nd, 2013Last week, some 15 French activists in chimpanzee masks disrupted a Forum on Synthetic Biology in Paris, raising questions about the appropriateness of that kind of activism.
How are Humans Going to Become Extinct?by Sean CoughlanBBC NewsApril 25th, 2013Experiments in areas such as synthetic biology, nanotechnology and machine intelligence are hurtling forward into the territory of the unintended and unpredictable.
Never Mind Humanityby Ari SchulmanThe American ConservativeApril 25th, 2013Ray Kurzweil's new book might be dismissed on the bluster of its title alone, were it not the latest work from the famed futurist, inventor, and artificial-intelligence pioneer who has been hired as a director of engineering at Google.
Earth Day in Biopoliticsby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesApril 22nd, 2013In honor of Earth Day, let’s hope for a move away from “greenwashed” PR stunts and techno-fixes toward conservation, sustainability, and social responsibility.
Synthetic Biology as Public Relationsby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesApril 17th, 2013Recent synthetic biology projects related to malaria, flu and conservation are providing PR cover for the field and its corporate sponsors.
Synthetic Biologists and Conservationists Open Talksby Ewen CallawayNatureApril 16th, 2013But worries persist about unintended consequences of tinkering with nature.
New “Semisynthetic” Anti-Malarial Drug is Unneeded and Sets Dangerous Precedent While Threatening Farmer Livelihoods[Press Release]SynBioWatchApril 15th, 2013A pharmaceutical giant announced that it will replace the entire world supply of the preferred anti-malarial treatment with a semi-synthetic product produced using synthetic biology - a controversial, unregulated biotechnology.
Synthetic anti-malarial compound is bad news for artemisia farmersby Jim ThomasThe Guardian [UK]April 12th, 2013"There is simply no rationale to have a synthetic product on the market...Jay Keasling's words are denigrating for farmers...his work...adds nothing to solve the malaria problem at all."
Microbes Can Mass-Produce Malaria Drugby Emily SingerMIT Technology ReviewApril 10th, 2013Drug makers can now brew large vats of the malaria drug artemisinin with synthetic biology techniques.
Should We Be Trying to Bring Extinct Species Back to Life?by Pete ShanksAlternetApril 8th, 2013Here's a look at greenwashing, guilt-tripping and the politics of "de-extinction."
Biological Computer Created at Stanfordby Lisa KriegerMercury NewsMarch 29th, 2013A team of Stanford engineers has made a simple computer inside a living cell, where it could detect disease, warn of toxic threats and, where danger lurked, even self-destruct cells gone rogue.
DNA Tool Kit Goes Live Onlineby Ewen CallawayNatureMarch 12th, 2013The latest shopping website is open for business, offering unusual wares: DNA tools to help biologists to engineer life.
Book Review: Transhumanist Dreams and Dystopian Nightmaresby John GallowayBioNewsMarch 11th, 2013Some say we should use genetic science not simply to ameliorate the human predicament but to transcend it. Of course this raises the issue of what 'best' means and, in any event, who decides.
Synthetic Biology Comes Down to Earthby Paul VoosenThe Chronicle of Higher EducationMarch 4th, 2013Practitioners of synthetic biology made big promises and investors poured in the money, but most companies have made grinding progress, not breakthroughs.
Meet the New Eugenics, Same as the Old Eugenicsby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorBiopolitical TimesMarch 4th, 2013According to a new wave of eugenic advocacy, “we” have a “moral obligation” to enhance future generations.
The Brain is Not Computableby Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewFebruary 18th, 2013A leading neuroscientist says Kurzweil’s Singularity isn’t going to happen. Instead, humans will assimilate machines.
Exaggerations and Misrepresentations Have No Place in Science Policy Debatesby Jeremy GruberCouncil for Responsible GeneticsFebruary 15th, 2013A recent debate on whether we should prohibit genetically engineered babies wound up focusing on mitochondrial replacement techniques.
Synthetic Biology and the “Bioeconomy”: Feeding Fuel to the Fire of Landgrabs and Biodiversity Lossby Eric Hoffman and Jeff ConantGlobal Forest CoalitionFebruary 14th, 2013The new industrialists want to use synthetic biology techniques to turn microbes into “living chemical factories” engineered to produce biofuels, bio-plastics, industrial chemicals and oils, and even medicines.
Neo Neanderthal[With CGS's Pete Shanks]by Alyona MinkovskiHuffPost LiveJanuary 25th, 2013A leading geneticist at Harvard Medical School says he can clone a Neanderthal and resurrect the extinct species. What are the ethical issues, risks and benefits?
Neanderthal Cloning Comments Spark Controversy in Scientific Community[Quotes CGS's Pete Shanks]by Jason KoeblerUS NewsJanuary 25th, 2013The suggestion that scientists would need a "cohort" of Neanderthals is "irresponsible speculation."
Wanted: Adventurous Surrogate to Gestate Neanderthal Baby [updated]by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesJanuary 19th, 2013George Church speculates about an "adventurous female human" willing to be impregnated with a synthetically constructed and genetically engineered Neanderthal-like clone.
Interview with George Church: Can Neanderthals Be Brought Back from the Dead?by Philip Bethge and Johann GrolleDer SpiegelJanuary 18th, 2013The English translation of the interview in which George Church of Harvard University explains how genetic technology and synthetic biology might permit the creation of a Neanderthal-like clone that could be gestated by a woman.
Eric Hoffman on a Very Discreet Newcomer: Synthetic Biologyby Eric HoffmanA World of ScienceJanuary 11th, 2013An interview on the dangers of synthetic biology published in UNESCO's Natural Sciences Sector's quarterly journal.
Could Human Enhancement Turn Soldiers Into Weapons That Violate International Law? Yesby Patrick LinThe AtlanticJanuary 4th, 2013New technologies reveal ambiguities and hidden assumptions in international humanitarian law.
By Hiring Kurzweil, Google Just Killed the SingularityThank God. by John PavlusMIT Technology ReviewDecember 17th, 2012Google announced a jaw-dropping hire: Ray Kurzweil as a Director of Engineering. If he wants to put his ideas into action there, he’ll have no choice but to get real about them.
Review: Bioethics: All That Matters by Donna Dickensonby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorDecember 13th, 2012This lively and accessible guide to the ethical implications of biotechnology asks how the field promotes or undermines social equality.
Concern Over 'Souped Up' Human Raceby Michelle RobertsBBC NewsNovember 8th, 2012Four professional bodies in the UK warn that there is an "immediate need" for debate around the potential harms of human enhancement technologies.
British Academics Say Technological Enhancements to Employees Raise Ethical Questionsby Raphael SatterWashington PostNovember 7th, 2012Attention needs to be focused on the consequences of technology which may one day allow — or compel — humans to work better, longer and harder.
Un-Mainstreaming Human Enhancementby Charles T. RubinThe New AtlantisNovember 7th, 2012Human enhancements may be hard to resist, but so are many things we avoid because the consequences are much worse than the reward.
Military Mind Warsby Jonathan D. MorenoThe ScientistNovember 1st, 2012How neuroscience research can inform military counterintelligence tactics, and the moral responsibilities that accompany such research.
Israeli Start-up Wants to Democratize Creationby Ben RooneyThe Wall Street Journal (blog)October 29th, 2012“Every living thing is just an app,” says the founder of an Israeli synthetic biology company that offers a drag-and-drop genome construction tool.
Craig Venter’s New Save-the-World Project: A 3-D Printer for Vaccinesby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 25th, 2012Craig Venter never fails to provide great media headlines. But the actual feasibility (or desirability) of his new project – to email digitized vaccines anywhere in the world to be printed ready to use – is dubious.
Bill McKibben on Real Time With Bill Maherby Osagie K. ObasogieBiopolitical TimesOctober 18th, 2012Bill McKibben discusses the radical implications of climate change and the troubling proposal made by some to "alter [human] behavior and physiology" to deal with these changes.
Genome Hunters Go After Martian DNAby Antonio RegaladoTechnology ReviewOctober 18th, 2012J. Craig Venter may have just started a race to discover alien life on the Red Planet.
Weird Science: The Promise and Peril of Synthetic Biologyby Jeff ConantEarth Island Journal, Autumn 2012A wave of gene therapies, pharmaceuticals, genetically engineered crops, and manufactured biofuels have transformed science, medicine, industry, and quite possibly, global ecology.
Books and JavaScript Stored in DNA Molecules by Douglas HeavenNew ScientistAugust 16th, 2012George Church and colleagues have encoded a 53,400-word book into sequences of DNA.
Synthetic 'Upgrade' for Fruit Fly's DNA by Linda GeddesNew ScientistAugust 13th, 2012The genetic code of the fruit fly Drosophila has been hacked into, allowing it to make proteins with properties that don't exist in the natural world.
Life: Digital and Synthetic?by Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesJuly 20th, 2012As Craig Venter unveils his newest plan to create life from scratch, questions about what this means and the consequences of doing so abound. What is life? A strange – perhaps obtuse – question. But the answer has profound consequences for how we as a society come to grips with novel biotechnologies.
Synthetic Collaborations and Experimental Human Scienceby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesJuly 13th, 2012A new book explores how human scientists and natural scientists might interact differently, and raises concerns about synthetic biology.
Should People be Allowed To Sell Their Organs?by Alice ParkTime / CNNJuly 3rd, 2012A U.S. Appeals Court has allowed donors to sell their bone marrow for up to $3,000. Could organs and other body parts soon carry a price tag as well?
Craig Venter’s Bugs Might Destroy the Worldby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesJune 22nd, 2012A recent article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine hypes Craig Venter and synthetic biology as green solutions to the world’s woes. The real story is what the article missed.
Synthetic Eugenics and Scientific Silenceby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesJune 21st, 2012Yet another worrying statement from a renowned synthetic biologist on redeisgning humans is met with indifference and silence by the scientific community.
Let's Get Real on Synthetic Biology by Claire Marris and Nikolas RoseNewScientist.comJune 11th, 2012As the race to build life from scratch pushes on, hyperbole drowns out nuanced discussion. We need more wide-ranging dialogue.
Bay Area Artist Looks to Biopolitical Issues for Inspirationby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesJune 7th, 2012Bay Area artist Doug Minkler addresses concerns about synthetic biology and the corporatization of scientific research in his socially conscious posters.
Is International Governance on the Horizon for Synthetic Biology? by Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMay 31st, 2012New developments at the international level mark a potential victory for progressives concerned about synthetic biology.
Mapping Synthetic Biologyby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMay 24th, 2012Want to learn where synthetic biology is happening, who is funding it, and how to regulate it? A new academic publication reveals the intriguing details of the global synthetic biology network.
Rewritable Memory Encoded into DNAby Erika Check HaydenNatureMay 21st, 2012Researchers in California have successfully encoded a type of rewritable memory into bacterial DNA. However, it took three years and over 750 attempts to do so, demonstrating the difficulty of coding apparently simple processes into DNA.
Big Promises Backed by Bad Theoryby Eric Hoffman and Stuart NewmanGenetic Engineering & Biotechnology NewsMay 15th, 2012Synthetic biology is not only based on poor biological models, but also presents dramatic risks to health and the environment. The field is badly in need of oversight and regulation.
Why Amyris Is Giving Up on Biodiesel, For NowNew data show that its products cost more than $30 a gallon to make.by Kevin BullisTechnology ReviewMay 9th, 2012Synthetic biology company Amyris, a leader in the field, gives up its biofuels business, and shifts its approach to cosmetics.
White House Plan for New “Bioeconomy” — A Step in the Wrong Direction by Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMay 2nd, 2012Unveiling a new “National Bioeconomy Blueprint,” the Obama Administration appeases the biotech industry while taking a step in the wrong direction.
Artificial DNA Presents Real Dangersby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMay 2nd, 2012The creation of “artificial DNA” has generated substantial media buzz. The untold story behind the hype is about the new risks synthetic biology presents.
White House Promotes a Bioeconomyby Andrew PollackNew York TimesApril 26th, 2012The White House unveils its "National Bioeconomy Blueprint" amidst praise from the biotech industry and dissent from consumer advocates and environmentalists.
Synthetic Genetic Evolution by Ruth WilliamsThe ScientistApril 19th, 2012A new synthetic biology experiment shows that artificially designed nucleic acids can replicate and evolve.
GEN Poll Majority Favors Moratorium on Synthetic Bio ProductsGenetic Engineering & Biotechnology NewsApril 10th, 2012A majority of respondents to a GEN poll would like to see a moratorium on synthetic organisms and their products.
Craig Venter in Space: Houston, We have a Problem. by Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesApril 5th, 2012NASA's synthetic biology initiative not only carries profound safety risks, but also presents a troubling form of techno-futurism.
Launch With Cautionby Sona MakkerBiopolitical TimesApril 4th, 2012Singularity University has launched a program to help entrepreneurs break in to the synthetic biology industry. Questions about oversight and regulation of the ensuing products and businesses appear not to be addressed.
Playing God?by Steven T. JonesSan Francisco Bay GuardianApril 3rd, 2012SynBioWatch raises concerns about the risks posed by a planned new synthetic biology lab in Richmond.
Whistleblower Now Reluctant Biotech Safety Spokeswoman by Lee HowardThe DayApril 1st, 2012Molecular biologist Becky McClain has become a national spokeswoman for biotech safety after winning a $1.37 million judgment against Pfizer Inc., her former employer.
Plan to merge labs for biofuel research criticizedby David PerlmanSan Francisco ChronicleMarch 29th, 2012Synthetic biology research at a proposed facility in Richmond, California would be tied to unknown energy companies, poorly regulated, and expose employees to dangerous microbes. If successful, it would rob undeveloped nations of their croplands.
Bay Area may be at risk from synthetic biology research labsby Emily Smith BeitiksSan Jose Mercury NewsMarch 27th, 2012Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently announced a proposal to build a synthetic biology lab in Richmond, which should give us pause to consider exactly what risks this little-known field poses for the environment and human health.
Writing Your Baby’s Synthetic Genome: Genetic Engineering for the Facebook Generationby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMarch 22nd, 2012A growing chorus of synthetic biology advocates is promoting using the new tools for "enhancing" future generations.
International Coalition Unveils Principles for the Oversight of Synthetic Biologyby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMarch 22nd, 2012A new declaration by 111 progressive NGOs calls for a principled and precautionary approach to synthetic biology governance.
SynBioWatch to Hold Public Discussion on Synthetic Biology Risksby Doug PetBiopolitical TimesMarch 16th, 2012A social and environmental justice coalition, SynbioWatch, will hold a public meeting to discuss the possible dangers associated with synthetic biology.
Environmental Groups Call for Tighter Regulation of ‘Extreme Genetic Engineering’by Brian VastagWashington PostMarch 13th, 2012A global coalition of 111 organizations released the first global declaration outlining principles that must be adopted to protect the environment from risks posed by synthetic biology.
Synthetic Biology Policy Gets Dismal Score Cardby Daniel SharpBiopolitical TimesMarch 6th, 2012The Wilson Center releases a score card revealing an utter lack of progress made towards oversight and regulation of synthetic biology.
Report Finds US Slow to Implement Synthetic Biology Policiesby Meredith WadmanNature News BlogFebruary 8th, 2012A Wilson Center study finds the US slow to implement the recommendations outlined in the President's Bioethics Commission report on synthetic biology.
A New Bay Area Lab Will Focus on Synthetic Biologyby Jeff Conant, Biopolitical Times guest contributorJanuary 19th, 2012Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, DOE, and UC Berkeley’s new Bay Area bio-lab is creeping into the news. But what’s the untold story?
The Military’s Push To Green Our ExplosivesEnvironmentally Friendly Weapons, Synthetic Biology, and International Law.January 19th, 2012The military's weaponization of biology presents ethical problems and raises political questions concerning bio-weapons governance.
Synthetic Biology and the Rise of the 'Spider-Goats'by Adam RutherfordThe Guardian [UK]January 14th, 2012"Synthetic organisms at this point should not be out there in the environment; they shouldn't be out there in industry. That's irresponsible and inappropriate."
Bioengineers Debate Use of Military Moneyby Erika Check HaydenNature NewsNovember 22nd, 2011US Department of Defense’s call for greener ways to make explosives worries synthetic biologists.
New Buzz around Biological Hazardsby Emily BeitiksBiopolical TimesNovember 1st, 2011Recent reports highlight emerging biological engineering risks that might not be all that different from threats of bioterrorism, though the context of development surely differs.
Science Magazine Boosts Synthetic Biologyby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesSeptember 7th, 2011A special feature in Science magazine is devoted to promoting synthetic biology.
Poor countries urged to get ready for synthetic biologyby Mico TatalovicSciDev NetJanuary 17th, 2011Will synthetic biology products be developed and commercialised before there is regulation and understanding of their environmental and societal impacts?
Civil Society Letter to President's Commission on Synthetic Biology58 organizations from 22 countries sign the letter, which rejects the "inadequate response to the risks posed by synthetic biology."
Bioethics Commission on Synthetic Biology: "Prudent Vigilance" or Green Light? by Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesDecember 16th, 201058 public interest organizations characterize the commission's report on synthetic biology as "deeply flawed."
Presidential commission urges caution on 'synthetic biology'by Rob SteinThe Washington PostDecember 16th, 2010Their report concludes that the U.S. government needs to take precautions to ensure that laboratory-made microbes do not cause unexpected catastrophes.
The President’s Bioethics Commission Misses the Mark on Synthetic Biology: “Prudent Vigilance” a Poor Substitute for Precautionby Eric Hoffman, Biopolitical Times guest contributorBiopolitical TimesDecember 2nd, 2010The commission's recommendations are far from the precautionary policies needed to protect the environment and public’s health from the novel risks posed by synthetic biology.
Bioethics Panel Finalizes Advice for Synthetic Biology by Jocelyn KaiserScience InsiderNovember 17th, 2010A presidential bioethics commission concluded this week that the U.S. government should not clamp down too hard on research on synthetic biology.
New ETC Report on Synthetic Biology & the Global Biomass Grabby Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 3rd, 2010"The New Biomassters" considers the wider implications of the proposed new bioeconomy, which will exploit the people of the global South.
The Presidential Commission Hears About Synthetic Biologyby Brendan ParentBiopolitical TimesJuly 14th, 2010The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues hosted a series of panels to assess the risks and benefits of synthetic biology.
The Risks and Rewards of Synthetic Biology[Commentary]by Nancy GibbsTIMEJune 28th, 2010We need careful oversight, but we haven't proven very good at this. The crossroads of science and politics is a dodgy place.
Environmentalists Try to Ban Release of Synthetic Life Forms into The Wild [UK]by Steve ConnorThe IndependentMay 24th, 2010Environmentalists last week sought to use the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to push for moratorium on release of synthetic life forms into the wild.
Reactions to Venter's Latest Synthetic Biology Announcement by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesMay 22nd, 2010The announcement of the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell provoked considerable comment, and led President Obama to make synthetic biology the first order of business for his Bioethics Commission.
Synthetic Biology, Drew Endy, and the Building of a Better Human from the Ground Upby Jesse ReynoldsBiopolitical TimesOctober 1st, 2009A leading synthetic biologist describes his vision of using SynBio to re-engineer humans.
New Report on Synthetic Biologyby Osagie ObasogieBiopolitical TimesJune 29th, 2009The new Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars recently released a report entitled Ethical Issues in Synthetic Biology.
Synthetic biology hackers announce "self-imposed moratorium"by Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesJanuary 14th, 2009Amateurs are cooking up entirely new genetically modified microbes. Will one of them turn out to be "a cataclysmic entity?"
Caruso and Darnovsky on Synthetic Biologyby Jesse ReynoldsBiopolitical TimesNovember 17th, 2008If you are doing some crash preparation to attend tonight's debate on synthetic biology with Drew Endy and Jim Thomas, here are two resources to bring you up to speed.
Conference explores Bay Area's hot new field of synthetic biology[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Lisa KriegerSan Jose Mercury NewsNovember 14th, 2008In an invitation-only meeting in San Francisco on Thursday, 80 activists discussed strategies to contain synthetic biology.
Synthetic Biology Debateby Marcy DarnovskyBiopolitical TimesOctober 30th, 2008A key civil society advocate debates a synthetic biology pioneer about "genetic engineering on steroids" - building artificial life from scratch.
Synthetic BiologyVenter's Trillion-Dollar Dream Spotlights Dangers of "Self-Regulation"Genetic CrossroadsJune 29th, 2007Yesterday's announcement that biotech entrepreneur Craig Venter is one step closer to constructing a self-replicating artificial life form should be a wake-up call. Venter's move to construct a synthetic bacterial species paves the way for the deliberate or accidental creation of pathogens of unprecedented virulence.
ETC Group Report on Extreme Genetic Engineeringby Jesse ReynoldsBiopolitical TimesJanuary 31st, 2007Our friends at the ETC Group recently released an informative report on the rapidly emerging field of synthetic biology.

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