Synthetic biology aims to exercise control in the design, characterization and construction of living organisms and biological parts. No longer the domain of science fiction literature, it has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years, accompanied by great promises and grave risks. Potential positive impacts of this new multidisciplinary area of research include development of agricultural crops with improved resistance to environmental stresses and genetic control of disease vectors, such as mosquitoes. At the same time, it involves not only environmental, socio-economic and security risks, but also ethical concerns. Law and governance have failed to keep pace with innovations in this field. Lab experimentation and field trials take place in a legal vacuum. On top of companies and research institutes, a vibrant do-it-yourself (DIY) community is engaged in research, claiming to democratize science and problem solving. While legal orders at the national and regional level are struggling, global deliberations on the environmental and socio-economic impacts of synthetic biology have only recently begun under the auspices of UN multilateral environmental agreements. Negotiations are expected to be difficult, and policy-relevant academic analysis is urgently needed. Elsa Tsioumani's project will develop a new integrative framework for the governance of synthetic biology. 


Elissavet Tsioumani (School of International Studies, University of Trento)


Louisa R. Parks (School of International Studies, University of Trento)


European Commission Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship Scheme