While we were in the process of planning our 2015 iGEM project, we considered the implications and ethical issues surrounding CRISPR/Cas9 technology. We wrote a proposal for a funded collaboration with SYNENERGENE in order to develop our Human Practices work more extensively, allowing us to foster a conversation within our community focused on synthetic biology and the implications of CRISPR/Cas9 research.
SYNENERGENE is a European non-profit, which aims to initiate public dialogue on synthetic biology among various stakeholders in society, including professionals from fields spanning academia, industry, law, policy, and research. This organization aims to consider the developing field of synthetic biology from a Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) perspective. In collaboration with SYNENERGENE, we worked with our mentor, Kjetil Rommetveit, to develop an “application scenario” and a “techno-moral scenario”, which consider the Intellectual Property (IP) and ethical issues that may arise in the near future regarding innovations utilizing the CRISPR/Cas9 system.
As described by SYNENERGENE:
Application scenarios offer detailed and realistic descriptions of how SynBio applications could be fully deployed and embedded in society, including: design criteria for the products proposed, target manufacturers and users of the products, the needs and costs involved, legal issues of patenting, regulatory requirements, potential safety, social and ethical implications, and available or conceivable alternatives.
A techno-moral scenario is a story, artwork, or other tool to stimulate imagination, reflection and debate about ways in which SynBio applications may transform our society through wider impacts, including ethical, legal and social issues.