Synthetic biology is a newly emerging research field at the intersection between molecular biology, microbiology, genetic engineering, organic chemistry, computer science and the engineering sciences.
Synthetic biology has been thrust more into the limelight at the latest since Craig Venter published his findings on an artificially synthesized bacterial genome in May 2010 that attracted considerable attention. Newspapers feature headlines about artificial life created in the laboratory and research scientists who tinker with the hereditary material of bacteria and viruses in a frenzy of creation. There is talk of customised microbes that will produce biofuels, pharmaceuticals, food and so much more in the future. The list of promises in the field of synthetic biology is long but what is actually behind this discipline and what can it do for Germany?
The Group is currently addressing this question from different perspectives in order to map synthetic biology and its present balancing act between the outlined risks and hopes. It looks at the controversial positions on the classification of this young discipline within current genetic engineering research and sheds light on the current state of the science and its predicted applications. Furthermore, the Group seeks to engage in an intensive ethical appraisal of the understanding of life and naturality in this research field. Another focus of its work is the coverage of synthetic biology in the media and how it is perceived by society in Germany.