BioEconomy: Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology

Dr. Nathan Hillson, Director of Synthetic Biology Informatics at Joint BioEnergy Institute based in California, USA participates in Risk Roundup to discuss “Bio Economy: Promise and Perils of Synthetic Biology”.



Today, we the humans are no longer confined to what nature must offer.  The advances in science and technology has given us the capability to create “living things”. While what nature has given is still the foundation to our natural biological ecosystem, we, the humans are now capable to build on this foundation and create a man-made, synthetic bio-ecosystem of our desire and definition.

We have reached a point where tools and technology to define and design entire human and non-human genomes have caught up to our ability to construct them. In the coming years, we will be able to define, design and construct any cell, organism or any biological species we want—with a growing selection of genome from human, non-human and or any other living species. The time is almost here, where the ability to create or manipulate “life” seems restricted only by human imagination as, we will now be able to build any cell, organism or biological species up from scratch.

There is a growing belief that there’s no such thing as an “artificial gene” and what matters to a gene is DNA sequence, and not how one makes that DNA sequence. It is this ability to synthesize DNA sequence from living and non-living species that has “completely transformed” much of everything.

As a result, the “industrial age” is slowly but steadily drawing to a close to be gradually replaced by an era of “biological engineering”. Nations are going to transition from an economy that relied on “machines” to the one that relies on “biology.” Although we speak about the “Bioeconomy”, a biological future that can be engineered the way we want, it is important to understand and evaluate whether we have enough knowledge to prevent the risks that comes with the advances in Synthetic Biology, on which the BioEconomy is being built?

It is therefore not only important to understand and evaluate the changing nature of “economy”, its impact on respective nations: its government, industries, organizations, academia and individuals, but also the independent and interdependent risks of Synthetic biology, the emerging bioeconomy and the impact due to decline of industrial age.

No scientific achievement has promised so much, or has come with clear possibilities, and potential for global transformation, and none has brought opportunity for deliberate abuse and misuse, or existential risks to the human species as Synthetic Biology.

Time is now to talk about risks of Synthetic Biology!

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About the Guest

Dr. Nathan Hillson, is the Director of Synthetic Biology Informatics at Joint BioEnergy Institute based in California, USA. He is also the Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of TeselaGen Biotechnology. He leads the Synthetic Biology Informatics initiative of Joint Genomic Institute and is the Principal Investigator at Agile BioFoundry. He is the Department Head of Biodesign at Berkley Lab and has authored many publications.

About the Host of Risk Roundup
Jayshree Pandya (née Bhatt) is a visionary leader, who is working passionately with imagination, insight and boldness to achieve “Global Peace through Risk Management”. It is her strong belief that collaboration between and across nations: its government, industries, organizations and academia (NGIOA) will be mutually beneficial to all—for not only in the identification and understanding of critical risks facing one nation, but also for managing the interconnected and interdependent risks facing all nations. She calls on nations to build a shared sense of identity and purpose, for how the NGIOA framework is structured will determine the survival and success of nations in the digital global age. She sees the big picture, thinks strategically and works with the power of intentionality and alignment for a higher purpose—for her eyes are not just on the near at hand but on the future of humanity!
At Risk Group, Jayshree is defining the language of risks and currently developing thought leadership, researching needed practices, tools, framework and systems to manage the “strategic and shared risks” facing nations in a “Global Age”. She believes that cyberspace cannot be secured if NGIOA works in silo within and across its geographical boundaries. As cyber-security requires an integrated NGIOA approach with a common language, she has recently launched “cyber-security risk research center” that will merge the boundaries of “geo-security, cyber-security and space-security”.
Previously, she launched and managed “Risk Management Matters”, an online risk journal and one of the first risk publications, publishing “Industry Risk Reports of Biotechnology, Energy, Healthcare, Nanotechnology, and Natural Disasters” over the course of five years. Jayshree’s inaugural book, “The Global Age: NGIOA @ Risk”, was published by Springer in 2012.

About Risk Roundup

“Risk Roundup” is an “integrated strategic security risk dialogue” for nations: its government,  industries, organizations and academia (NGIOA) in cyberspace, geospace and space (CGS).Risk Roundup is released in both audio (Podcast) and video (Webcast) format and is available for subscription at (Risk Group WebsiteiTunesGoogle PlayStitcher RadioAndroid, and Risk Group Professional Social Media).

About Risk Group
Risk Group believes that risk management, security and peace walk together hand in hand. Though security is related to management of threats and peace to the management of conflict, risk management is related to management of security vulnerabilities as well as management of conflict, and it is not possible to conceive any one of the three without the existence of the other two. All three concepts feed into each other. Risk Group believes that the security we build for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for everyone across nations. Tradition becomes our security-so if we build a culture of managing risks effectively it will lead us to security and security will lead us to peace!

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