The OpenPlant Cambridge Coordinator Dr Jenny Molloy appeared on BBC Radio 4's 'Inside Science' last week following the publication of a bioengineering horizon scanning exercise co-organised by the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and SynBio SRI, (both University of Cambridge) and the Future of Humanity Institute (University of Oxford) in Dec 2016.
In an interview with host Adam Rutherford, Jenny discussed the potential democratised future of synthetic biology and the importance of open tools and technologies for engineering biology, such as those generated by OpenPlant and the SRI's activities such as the Biomaker Challenge.
Topics covered included the ways in which synthetic biology is getting cheaper, faster and more distributed with increasing activity within institutions and education but also in community labs like Cambridge's Biomakespace. Changing ownership models in biotechnology was highlighted in the horizon scan as a long term trend that is likely to be a major issue in the next 15 years; it can potentially lead to greater equity in access to technology for public benefit but democratisation also raises questions of responsible governance and regulation. Jenny pointed to the work of the Woodrow Wilson Centre in demonstrating that the DIY biology community are typically very proactive in self-governance and drawing up community codes of ethics and engaging with law enforcement and regulators.
You can download or take a listen to the episode online. The synthetic biology segment starts at 14 min.
Wintle, Bonnie C., Christian R. Boehm, Catherine Rhodes, Jennifer C. Molloy, Piers Millett, Laura Adam, Rainer Breitling et al. "A transatlantic perspective on 20 emerging issues in biological engineering." eLife 6 (2017).