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Will DIY-bio potentially benefit or threaten society?



DIY-Bio: Empowerment or anarchy? Edinburgh International Book Festival debate


In a garage or bedroom near you, citizen scientists or “bio-hackers” may well be engineering new life-forms. Thanks to technology becoming ever cheaper, bio-engineering is moving from the university to the “pop-up lab” allowing amateur bio-technologists to produce new organisms by combining snippets of DNA into complex genetic blueprints.

But will this revolution in accessibility of biotechnology to arm-chair scientist and bio-hackers be a force for good – leading to new discoveries that might benefit society, or could it have a more sinister edge? And how is the rise in DIY-bio being regulated?

These are just some of the questions and issues that will be debated, on Monday 13 August, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival event Supported by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, the session will bring together experts and commentators on DIY-bio, including: editor of Wired magazine, Ben Hammersley; author of the forthcoming Biohackers, Dr Alessandro Delfanti; and synthetic aesthetics researcher Dr Jane Calvert, to discuss the innovative advances and political and ethical challenges behind this technological revolution.

Speaking ahead of the DIY-bio event, Genomics Forum Director, , said:

“In a similar way to what has happened to computer technology during the past few decades, bio-technology is no longer the preserve of university academics or commercial life science companies. DIY-bio has come about thanks to the reduced costs and increased access to technologies such as DNA synthesis. This means synthetic biology is becoming democratised and potentially accessible to all.

“However, with the increased accessibility of DIY-bio there also come questions and debate about how this technology is used, who owns and controls it, and whether such a democratic approach to life sciences should be subject to regulation.”


Extract from the cover of the Book Festival programme 2012