June 10, 2013
WASHINGTON – The MIT Center for International Studies and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars are collaborating on a $233,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help realize potential benefits and to address potential ecological effects of synthetic biology.
The grant is supported jointly by three units within NSF, the Division of Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Division of Environmental Biology, and the Engineering Directorate. The grant will fund development of an interdisciplinary research agenda to improve understanding of potential ecological effects of commercial uses of synthetic biology. The research agenda will be developed through consultations among synthetic biologists, evolutionary biologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists. It will be based on workshops that focus on near- and medium-term applications of synthetic biology, with scenarios based on the intentional and unintentional release of engineered organisms.
This project will be conducted jointly by the Program on Emerging Technologies of the MIT Center for International Studies and the Synthetic Biology Project at the Wilson Center. It will build on four previous workshops that brought together a wide range of scientists, regulators, NGOs, companies, and other stakeholders to discuss possible ecological risks associated with synthetic biology products and to identify sources of uncertainty over risks. These workshops were funded jointly by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the NSF Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. The project is expected to be completed in one year. A small board of advisors has been created to guide the design and execution of the workshops.