Obama interested in synthetic biology

THE synthetic biology seems to be one of the administration's new interests Obama. After the announcement of the development of the first synthetic cell, the president of WE convened a panel of experts to explain themselves during a hearing before the Congress the scope of these scientific advances. The exhibition took place a few days later Obama request a six-month bioethical study on the health, safety and risk implications of this new discipline.

The main concern with synthetic biology is the potential it has to create microorganisms that could efficiently produce hydrocarbons, which would mean one more alternative to the use of fossil fuels. Henri Waxmannboss of White House Committee on Energy and Commerce, assured that research should focus on “the development of microbes (sic) capable of producing oil, providing us with a renewable fuel”. Waxman also mentioned that the development of oil-eating organisms is significant, in relation to the recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The panel of experts — with the very Craig Venter at the helm, developer of the first synthetic organism — made his arguments before a committee unprepared on the subject. More than a debate on the implications of synthetic biology, the hearing served as a sort of presentation of the work of various companies engaged in synthetic biology. After all, almost all of the scientists on the panel (Venter included) are privately funded.

It is interesting to see how the administration Obama immediately moves towards a pragmatic approach to the application of this emerging discipline. Synthetic biology has only just begun to bear fruit, and it is far from being a perfect outcome. It is clear that the creation of synthetic organisms is an issue that should be subject to public debate and scrutiny, especially in a country used to being at the forefront of science (and even more so if the sacred taxes go to the laboratories!).

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Of course, I wonder what the response of the majority of the population will be, in a nation capable of the greatest scientific advances, but whose people were able to stop research with stem cells by simple fanaticism (I veto that, by the way, Obama promised to reverse). Let's see how far synthetic biology will go before the torches go out.

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