Designing safety policies to meet evolving needs: iGEM as a testbed for proactive and adaptive risk management

December 19, 2014

Julie McNamara, Shlomiya Bar-Yam Lightfoot, Kelly Drinkwater, Evan Appleton and Kenneth Oye
ACS Synthetic Biology, December 2014

iGEM has spent the past decade encouraging teams to push their projects to the frontiers of synthetic biology. However, as project complexity increases, so too does the level of assumed risk. In the absence of a coherent international framework for evaluating these risks in synthetic biology, iGEM has recently engaged with the MIT Program on Emerging Technologies to develop a progressive approach for handling questions of safety and security. These two groups have worked together to create a rigorous screening program, acknowledging that a strengthened set of iGEM safety policies ultimately serves to expand, not contract, the universe of acceptable projects. This paper reports on the policy process evolution thus far, screening findings from the 2013 competition, and expectations for future policy evolution.

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