Thursday, December 16, 2010
PCSBI Report: Synbio Much Ado About Not Much Yet
In its first report, released today, the Obama administration's Presidential Commission for the Study Bioethical Issues ("PCSBI") largely ratifies the current legal environment in which synthetic biology operates, while also urging close monitoring and future study of this rapidly evolving field. The PCSBI's mission is "to identify and promote policies and practices that ensure scientific, health care delivery, and technological innovation are conducted in a socially and ethically responsible manner." On May 6, 2010, the J. Craig Venter Institute ("JCVI") quietly deposited the full genome sequence of "Synthetic Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 clone sMmYCp235-1" into GenBank. Then, on May 20, 2010, the JCVI surprised the world by announcing, and publishing in Science, its successful "Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome." The White House responded immediately by requesting that the PCSBI study relevant ethical issues raised by this biological breakthrough, and complete its study by November 20, 2010. On December 16, 2010, the PCSBI released the results of its first mandate from President Obama. Prepared with the assistance of two consultants, Alison Davis (Ph.D. in Cell Biology from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine) and Kathi E. Hanna (Ph.D. in Business and Public Management from George Washington University), and a public relations firm, Burness Communications, the report is entitled "New Directions - The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies."