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iGEM Ethics Team Project

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iGEM Ethics Team Project The Team: Niklas Bobrovitz, Sibat Khwaja, Daniela Navia, Gregor Wolbring – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: iGEM Ethics Team Project


1
iGEM Ethics Team Project
  • The Team
  • Niklas Bobrovitz,
  • Sibat Khwaja,
  • Daniela Navia,
  • Gregor Wolbring

2
WHY BRING AN ETHICS TEAM IN iGEM
3
The Project Output
  • Survey for high school students
  • Survey for non-high school participants
  • Collaboration with the Guelph Team E3LS of
    Vitamin A Delivery Systems
  • E3LS (ethical, environmental, economic, legal,
    social) Assessment of the Calgary Wet lab team
    project (Collaboration with the Wet lab team)
  • Online course about SBE3LS
  • Shad Valley Presentation An Introduction to
    Synthetic Biology

4
Sample
  • 254 People started the survey
  • 136 (53.5) completed it
  • The survey was sent to 130 key people who were
    asked to send the survey link through their
    networks
  • 15 government
  • 45 academics
  • 11 industry
  • 39 NGO,CSO
  • 10 UN agencies
  • 10 unclassified
  • The survey was also sent for IGEM via the monthly
    newsletter

5
THE RESULTS
6
Demographics
  • Age
  • Over 30 66.4 (91)
  • 18-30 29.9 (41)
  • Occupation
  • University 28.6 (40)
  • University Student 16.4 (23)
  • Government 16.4 (23)
  • NGO 10 (14)
  • Industry 5 (7)
  • Faith
  • Not Religious 72.3 (89)
  • Christian 12.2 (15)
  • Catholic 8 (10)
  • Other 4 (5)
  • Countries (19 total)
  • Canada 40.4 (55)
  • USA 25.7 (35)
  • UK 9.6 (13)
  • Brazil 1.5 (2)
  • Scotland 1.5 (2)
  • Netherlands 1.5 (2)
  • India 1.5 (2)
  • Mexico 1.5 (2)
  • Germany 1.5 (2)
  • France 1.5 (2)
  • Others (Include Australia, S. Korea, South
    Africa) 13.2 (18)

7
What is Synbio?
8
Do you know what Synbio is?
OVERALL YES 65.1 (138) INDUSTRY 100
(4) IGEM 93.3 (23) UNIVERSITY STUDENT
85.7 (12) UNIVERSITY 77.8 (28) NGO 71.4
(10) GOVERNMENT 56.5 (13)
9
What does synbio mean to you?
  • Stimulation of biology by artificial means
  • A synthesized system inspired by or mimicking a
    biological system through the use of engineering.
  • A synthesized system that may display functions
    not necessarily found in nature.
  • The engineering (by humans and facilitated by
    cutting-edge scientific developments, such as
    nanotechnology, biotechnology, etc.) of
    biological processes, materials or living
    organisms.
  • An approach to biology that attempts to integrate
    (or "synthesize") different areas of research in
    order to create a more holistic understanding of
    life
  • high technology and its impact
  • A different branch or level of various attempts
    to industrialize the living world.
  • Usage of technology to enhance biological
    bodies/cells
  • An artificial human technological advance that
    attempts to modify and enhance functions of
    biological entity.

10
What do you think should be the general purpose
of synthetic biology? n148
-Better understanding of the human condition,
biological systems, genetic processes and
ecosystems -Raise new questions about aspects of
Biology often taken for granted -Establish a
standardized approach to genetic engineering
11
What do you think should be the general purpose
of synthetic biology? n148
What its purpose should not be
-Disrupt/ Harm the environment -Directed
evolution -Should not focus on making things
better -Commercial purposes -Weaponry -Should
not replace social processes (ie.
Cloning) -Should only be used for research
Other
There is no general Purpose
-Impossible to answer a normative question about
the historical emergence of scientific fields
-Give people more autonomy -Entertainment -Clone
people -Technocracy -Further any goals we have
12
Differences in iGEM subsample
  • KNOWLEDGE/RESEARCH
  • Research purposes
  • To unify an open source community of bioengineers
  • Standardize biology for scientists
  • Generate scientific knowledge/ understanding life
    (in its broadest sense)

13
Just how important are some of the following
issues in the context of Synbio?
  • Well, all are Very Important or Important!
    (To more than a third of the sample)
  • Using existing bases
  • Very Important Social, legal, ethical,
    environmental, health, biosafety/biosecurity,
    clear definition of Synbio, political, cultural,
    regulation and privacy
  • Important Economic, technological feasibility,
    patent/open source, standardization of parts,
    commercial
  • Using artificial bases
  • Very important All Issues above except patents
    (which was only important)

14
Differences in subsamples
Univer. Students
iGEM
NGO
Industry
Govt.
University
Using Existing Bases
STAND, PARTS DEFINITION COMMERCIAL
POLITICAL CULTURAL COMMERCIAL
Somewhat Important
REGULATION PATENTS
SOCIAL ETHICAL POLITICAL CULTURAL PRIVACY
COMMERCIAL
CULTURAL
Not Important
Using Artificial Bases
PATENTS STAND, PARTS
POLITICAL CULTURAL COMMERCIAL
COMMERCIAL
PATENTS
Somewhat Important
REGULATION
POLITICAL CULTURAL PRIVACY
Not Important
15
Ethical Issues
16
Should the synthesis of genomes be restricted to
certain classes of species?
I DONT KNOW 33.6 (42)
  • Not sure if we have the information to answer
    this question
  • I am not qualified to answer

YES 24 (30)
  • Genome Synthesis should be banned 7 (9)
  • Plants and lower
  • Not Humans- No Frankenstein's, please.
  • Not Potentially Infectious Viruses/Bacteria
  • It would have to be done on a case by case basis
    (not by a class of species, whatever that is)

NO 24 (30)
IT DOES NOT MATTER
  • Why should it?
  • Can't think of a particular reason why, unless
    you wanted to argue that cows are machines but
    geckos aren't.
  • As long as it is not introduced in the
    environment
  • It is not really possible to restrict BSc to a
    class of species
  • the gene pool is anyhow shared by a great variety
    of species

Nothing will stop Science.
17
Differences in iGEM subsample
  • Should the synthesis of genomes be restricted to
    certain classes of species?
  • No 71.4 (10)
  • Yes 14.3 (2)
  • Only single-celled organisms
  • Dont Know 14.3 (2)

18
Should synbio be used for enhancement purposes?
  • No 38.6 (49)
  • Why? Why should we presume we can intentionally
    change something so fundamental for the better?
  • The majority of people would find this ethically
    unacceptable.
  • Only a small percentage of the world population
    will be able to afford/benefit from the
    enhancements.- there is potential for
    technologies to become agents of discrimination
    and to further marginalize vulnerable populations
  • Dont Know 36.2 (46)
  • I don't know what you are asking. What is
    enhancement of a species?
  • Better adapted?
  • Better looking?
  • More socially acceptable?
  • More nutritious food?
  • Yes 25.2 (32)
  • Sure, we use drugs and prostheses this way
    already
  • Enhancement for people with disabilities should
    be freely available.

19
Differences in iGEM subsample
  • Should synthetic biology be used for enhancement
    purposes?
  • Yes 64.3 (9)
  • Dont Know 28.6 (4)
  • What do you mean by enhancement?
  • No 7.1(1)

20
Synbio- Non-therapeutic Human Applications?
  • Non-therapeutic
  • Cosmetics
  • Aesthetics
  • Age Defying, longevity
  • However, there are many concerned with
  • Discrimination and alienation
  • Making human functions obsolete
  • Sexualizing humans
  • Bionic super humans
  • The extermination of race and diversity
  • The commercial nature of these products

21
Should Synthetic Biology be used for military
purposes?
Yes
No
-Responsive/defensive technologies - Only for
non-human targets - Environmental cleanup
post-warfare - Protect soldiers health - Improve
quality of life of the injured -Debilitating but
non lethal disease used in warfare -Natural
disaster relief -Anything that kills our
enemies -To reduce the need to send people into
harms way
-All applications would be bad/ unethical -Long
term consequences are likely negative -It will
start a new arms race -Not for surveillance -Not
for biological warfare -Not for seizure of
resources or territory -Not for deliberate damage
to a countries genomes or gene pool -Not for
deliberate damage to a countries food stuffs
I dont know
Does not matter
Other
-A lot of major advances in science and
technology come from military funding
-Depends on the application -I would have to know
the physical, social and ethical implications
-It is probably already well underway -It seems
inevitable
22
Differences in iGEM subsample
  • No 78.6 (11)
  • Bioweapons (viruses, pathogens)
  • Yes 14.3 (2)
  • Defensive
  • Healing wounded soldiers
  • Biosensors- For chemicals, land mines
  • Dont Know 7.1 (1)

I don't think all of the advances made by
scientists on synthetic biology should be wasted
killing people and inducing war. That would make
lots of scientists feel not proud and bad about
their own work.
23
Risk Assessment Regulation
24
Do you believe the field of synthetic biology
needs regulation?
  • NO 3.5 (5)
  • Not yet. The field is too young to pose dangers
    needing regulation
  • Whether or not synbio will fulfill its promises
    is uncertain
  • No red tape, please.
  • YES 91.5 (130)
  • It could reduce potential harm, prevent
    misuse/abuse
  • It would ensure safe and effective products
  • Regulation is important on all issues impacting a
    large number of people
  • It will keep government informed about products
    and ideally make them more generally available
  • It will prevent ulterior motives (greed,etc) from
    getting in the way
  • PROBLEMS WITH REGULATION
  • It is a naive viewpoint to think regulation is
    any valid protection from abuse/misuse
  • Is there manpower to maintain strict controls?
  • How would benefit or harm be assessed?
  • Regulatory bodies have a tendency to yield to
    unfounded ethical principles which retard
    advancement

I DONT KNOW 4.9 (7)
25
How should synthetic biology be regulated?
  • International Regulation 77.9 (106)
  • The United Nations
  • Federal regulation 67.6 (92)
  • At state (provincial) and national levels
  • Participatory approach 36.8 (50)
  • Provincial/state regulation 32.4 (44)
  • Self regulation by universities 25 (34)
  • Self regulation by companies 21.3 (29)

26
Differences within subsamples
UNIVERSITY Intl. Regulation 83.3 (30) Federal
Regulation 66.7 (24) Participatory Approach
61.1 (22) Self Regulation by Universities 50
(18)
NGO Intl. Regulation 92.9 (13) Federal
Regulation 64.3 (9) Provincial/State
42.9(6) Participatory Approach 35.7(5)
iGEM Intl. Regulation 78.6 (11) Self Regulation
by Universities 50 (7) Participatory Approach
42.9 (6) Self regulation by companies 35.7 (5)
UNIVERSITY STUDENT Intl. Regulation 78.6
(11) Federal Regulation 57.1 (8) Participatory
Approach 42.6 (6) Provincial/State 42.6 (6)
GOVERNMENT Federal Regulation 87 (20) Intl.
Regulation 52.2 (12) Provincial/state 30.4
(7) Self regulation by Universities 26.1 (6)
INDUSTRY Federal Regulation 66.7 (2) Intl.
Regulation 66.7 (2) Participatory Approach 33.3
(1)
27
Do you believe that existing regulations and
international agreements can sufficiently manage
synthetic biology products and processes expected
in the future?
  • NO 57 (81)
  • New technologies require new rules
  • The current regulations may have some analogous
    areas (genetic engineering) but are not broadly
    conceived to include say non-natural DNA
    constructions
  • There has been insufficient public/scientist
    discourse on the matter
  • Due to the risk of misuse and abuse, more
    stringent regulations are needed.
  • I DONT KNOW 38.7 (55)
  • Are there any existing regulations that truly
    expose and inform what is taking place?

YES 4.2 (6)
28
Is the current risk assessment discourse in
regards to synthetic biology adequate?
  • NO 43.1 (53)
  • Current discourse
  • Is often utilitarian or dogmatic
  • Needs to be more open/transparent
  • Is too focused on the processes and not the
    application
  • Disregards environmental/health dangers
  • Is practically non-existent
  • Does not have enough resources
  • Is done only by those developing technologies
  • (more people/ the public should be involved)
  • Is often regarded as unimportant by scientists/
    Takes time away from their research
  • I DONT KNOW 49.6 (61)
  • Risk assessment of any synthetic DNA product is
    very difficult

YES 7.3 (9)
29
Do we need a new risk assessment specific to
organisms with artificial base pairs?
  • YES 54.5 (67)
  • This is uncharted and possibly dangerous
    territory
  • The public should be more involved
  • Depends on
  • If the organism can replicate
  • How could such life forms replicate outside of
    lab conditions?

I DONT KNOW 35 (43)
  • NO 10.6 (13)
  • The risks are similar, only the mechanisms are
    different

30
Future Products
31
Products from Synbio
  • ENVIRONMENT
  • Environmental remediation
  • Recycling/ Waste management
  • HEALTH
  • Organs, limbs, tissues
  • Enhanced sensory perception
  • Organ Transplant Organ and limb
  • Essential nutrient supplements
  • Antibiotics, drugs, vaccines
  • A microbe that eats plaque in the arteries
  • Synthetic Blood
  • ENERGY
  • Renewable/ cheaper fuel sources
  • (solar hydrogen, solar octane algae, etc).
  • AGRICULTURE
  • GM foods
  • Mass production of modified food staples

I would prefer as few products as possible. I do
not believe that we should be creating new life
forms at the market's will, as this has
significant potential moral, environmental, and
security risks.
32
Which future synbio products would be
particularly useful to lower income countries?
AGRICULTURE
ENVIRONMENT
ALL OF THEM
-Increase food sources -Improve food
sources -Biofertilizers -Decrease water needs
-Environmental remediation -Clean water
HEALTH
-Products that eradicate certain illnesses HIV,
Malaria -Vaccines- Edible vaccines -Pharmaceutical
s -Limbs and organs, prosthetics -Sanitation
Waste disposal, hygiene
MATERIALS
ECONOMY
-Cheap building supplies
-Any product that can be sold -Sustainable
development -Cheaper drugs
ENERGY
-Biofuels
33
Would synbio products be useful in lower income
countries?
  • No
  • Complex genetic technologies are one of the last
    things necessary to help low income countries
  • Such technologies would be an additional threat
    to their vulnerable existence
  • Countries that face economic challenges may not
    want synbio products
  • Usefulness would be undermined by
  • Unstable political regimes, warfare, human rights
    violations
  • Unfair trade practices
  • Poverty
  • Low income countries could never afford these
    products

34
Necessary policy frameworks needed to make these
products available
  • One that ensures
  • Containment and control
  • Safety and no misuse of the technology
  • People actually want the products
  • Companies do not profit
  • No patents/Open Source
  • Risks and benefits are shared equally between
    developed and developing countries
  • Public funding
  • Incentives for industry to provide
    products/processes at a low cost (ie. Carbon
    trading credits

35
Who should be a part of these frameworks?
  • International Organizations
  • International Organization for Standardization
  • United Nations
  • International Labor Organization
  • Organization for Economic Co-operation and
    Development
  • World Health organization
  • A new one would have to be created
  • An ethics oversight organization
  • The poor and marginalized should be the decision
    makers on all technologies

36
Why some people do not support synbio
  • Synthetic biology should be prohibited
  • It is not a safe, desirable or legitimate focus
    of good science and thoughtful citizenship.
  • I don't think anything good can come from messing
    with nature at this level, even if used for
    altruistic purposes, if it gets into the wrong
    hands (and it will) it unleashes too many
    unknowns and ethical issues.

37
Conclusions
  • There was a difference between iGEM respondents
    and the other samples in their emphasis on open
    source patents, self regulation, restrictions on
    synthesis of genomes for certain classes of
    species, and ranks of ethical, social, political
    issues as not important.

38
Conclusions Ctd.
  • 91.5 (130) were in favour of regulation and the
    open question was dominated by support for a
    multiple tier regulatory body, the most common
    being an international, federal, and
    participatory approach .
  • In order for a collaboration of this type to be
    effective, an approach to regulation that allows
    for the efficient translation of information from
    those working in synthetic biology to and among
    the regulatory bodies is a necessity.

39
Conclusion Ctd.
  • Many respondents answered I Dont Know for
    questions regarding risk assessment, regulation,
    restricting synthesis of genomes, products coming
    from synbio
  • However, they emphasized more public involvement
  • We believe that further education about Synbio is
    required for public involvement and would allow
    for more extensive questions and analysis

40
The Survey
  • Issues
  • It is too long Since it was exploratory in
    nature many of the questions were left open ended
  • Did not provide enough examples for those who did
    not know much about Synthetic Biology
  • Future questions
  • More specific age demographic
  • What are your personal feelings toward Synbio?
  • Feasibility of Synbio
  • Biobricks
  • Clarify what is meant by synthesized genomes
  • Provide different definitions of enhancement

41
Future Research
  • We have sent the survey to the Organic Consumer
    Association to see how responses would vary
    compared to our other sample groups
  • It would also be useful to inquire into peoples
    feelings toward specific products
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