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Genomics Forum · News

Considering risk assessment and regulation of emerging life science technologies



Forum Fellow convenes scientists, social scientists and policy professionals, to facilitate foresight on regulation.


The ESRC Genomics Forum will today [Wednesday 16 January 2013], host a workshop that will consider whether existing models of risk/safety assessment are adequate to address the regulation of new products resulting from emerging and converging technologies, such as synthetic biology.

The workshop has been convened by Genomics Forum Visiting Research Fellow Dr Peter Kearns, who is the Principal Administrator of the Environment, Health and Safety Programme at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Today’s event will bring together UK and international scientists and social scientists in order to consider the differing, current models of exchanging data amongst regulatory authorities, based on existing methods of risk assessment. It will then go on to address whether or not such methods will be applicable to new and emerging technologies using Synthetic Biology (together with related converging technologies) as a case study.

Speaking in advance of the workshop, Dr Peter Kearns said:

“Globally, different legal systems are often quite distinct in their approach to issues relating to new and emerging chemical and biological technologies. Despite these distinctions, there are methods by which safety data used in the risk assessment of a product in one jurisdiction can be used in others.

“It is important that such products are shown to be safe from a human health and environmental safety perspective, if they are to be accepted by society. Even though regulatory regimes may vary internationally, it may be possible to develop methods whereby safety data used in the risk assessment of a new product in one jurisdiction can be used in others. This could potentially lead to greater harmonisation in the way health and environmental safety data is generated, and produce greater efficiencies in regulatory processes.”

Genomics Forum Deputy Director, – who coordinates the Forum’s Visiting Research Fellow programme, commented:

“Through our Visiting Research Fellow programme, the Genomics Forum seeks to work collaboratively with individuals from across a range of organisations and disciplines to encourage new approaches to issues around the life sciences, and our economy and society.

“The Genomics Forum has a considerable background of working productively with the OECD, in order to consider socio-economic aspects of emerging areas within the life sciences. I am delighted that we have been able to host Dr Peter Kearns as a Visiting Research Fellow during the last few months, and believe that today’s workshop will contribute to a greater understanding between social scientists, other academics and those involved in the regulation of emerging and converging technologies at the international level.”


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