Written by: Karmella Haynes.
Megan Palmer joined the CSH synthetic biology course this year as an invited speaker. She is interested in understanding how synthetic biology research efforts are coordinating, diversifying, and how they are distributed. Exploring questions about the synthetic biology research landscape may enable us to predict the impact of the technology in the future. For instance, is the technology distributed broadly enough to provide equitable access to its benefits?
Another important aspect of responsible innovation is determining how and when to deploy an engineered organism into the public space. Should this be based on urgency and need, such as the synthetic biology-based platform to quickly produce bioengineered flu vaccines? Related to that, can safety risk be predicted in a way that protects public health and at the same time does not stymie beneficial research and innovation?
One of our CSH synthetic biology students from NIST pointed out that scientists need not fear that regulators are chomping at the bit to impose new regulations to control novel technologies. They are actually in favor of promoting regulations only when necessary.
The night included highly engaging dialogue, and many intriguing questions posed by both Megan and the audience.