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Bioethics Commission calls for enhanced federal oversight in new field of synthetic biology
Date:12/16/2010

Washington, DC The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues today released its first reporta wide-ranging review of the emerging field of synthetic biologyissuing 18 recommendations including a call for coordinated federal oversight of scientists working in both large institutions and smaller settings.

The panel, comprised of 13 scientists, ethicists, and public policy experts, said that the very newness of the science, which involves the design and construction of laboratory-made biological parts, gives regulators, ethicists and others time to identify any problems early on and craft solutions that can harness the technology for the public good.

"We comprehensively reviewed the developing field of synthetic biology to understand both its potential rewards and risks," said Dr. Amy Gutmann, the Commission Chair and President of the University of Pennsylvania. "We considered an array of approaches to regulationfrom allowing unfettered freedom with minimal oversight and another to prohibiting experiments until they can be ruled completely safe beyond a reasonable doubt. We chose a middle course to maximize public benefits while also safeguarding against risks."

Dr. Gutmann said the Commission's approach recognizes the great potential of synthetic biology, including life saving medicines, and the still distant risks posed by the field. "Prudent vigilance suggests that federal oversight is needed and can be exercised in a way that is consistent with scientific progress," she said.

President Obama asked the Commission to study the implications of synthetic biology following the May 20 announcement by the J. Craig Venter Institute that it had inserted a laboratory-made genome into a bacterial cell, creating an organism not found in nature. In three public hearings held over the past five months in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Atlanta, the Commission heard from over three-dozen ethicists, scientists and
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Contact: Jemma Weymouth
jweymouth@burnesscommunications.com
301-652-1558
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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