Policy and Practices

Investigating fair use of genetic material in iGEM

As a relatively new field, synthetic biology is experiencing rapid growth that often leads to an unresolved policy framework. Specifically in a competition like iGEM, it is often confusing as to exactly what the fair use of genetic material is between proprietary rights and open-sourced registries such as BioBrick. Are we allowed to submit parts that contain third-party material? If the genetic material obtained from a third-party is modified, could we then claim it to be our own invention? If so, how much modification is necessary to make such claims? Could solving such issues close the gap between industry proprietorship and iGEM open-sourced registries?

In response to these emerging policy issues and others, our team has created a Canadian iGEM specific guideline on the fair use of genetic material. The premise of our work is that a better understanding of what rights iGEM members have in part submission could lead to a wider range of innovative projects being submitted to the iGEM registry, which would benefit us as an iGEM community and a society. We hope that Canadian iGEM teams and others find this guideline useful as clarification, and will use it as a platform for further discussion.

To read more, download our report.

Other endeavours

In addition, our team has been actively involved in outreach and entrepreneurship to gain public interest in science. We continued organizing science workshops for high school students using various visual demonstrations, which we hope will make students more conscientious consumers and producers of innovative technologies in our society. Our business and arts team also launched a crowd funding campaign, which served as a platform to share our innovative project with the public and as a way to fundraise for the competition. To continue engaging the public, our team has also started preliminary work on creating bacterial art that is harmless and available to general consumers at a competitive price. We plan to grow this project in the following years, bridging the gap between science and society.