Synthetic Biology in a Global Context: Regulation, Standards, and Best Practice

Lalitha S. Sundaram

The promise and potential of synthetic biology in addressing some of the world’s most critical problems is being increasingly recognised the world over. Synthetic biology products and projects could hold the key to sustainably “heal us, feed us, and fuel us.” For these technologies to be truly effective, however, they need to make the critical transition from lab bench to field. I am particularly interested in how this transition is managed to ensure it is done in a considered, thoughtful, and appropriate manner. I believe that there are two interconnected areas here that need careful consideration: managing Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and navigating the regulatory landscape. Given that RRI and regulatory issues are inherently linked to public perception, I believe that the way we operate here is crucial to how the field as a whole is perceived: by the public, policy makers, and investors. Having a clear framework for how RRI underpins research and development, and how safety and security issues are being addressed within this framework, could facilitate public engagement and allow synthetic biology innovations to reach and address their most important users in a context-appropriate and safe manner.