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Hastings Center Lands $500K from Sloan Foundation for Synthetic Biology Ethics Project

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Hastings Center has received a $500,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to spend two years delving into the ethical issues surrounding the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, the center said today.
The project will involve partnerships with the J. Craig Venter Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
This program will examine a variety of issues that may be brought up by a research area that “aims to create wholly new genetic recipes” and which could help develop new medicines, tumor-seeking bacteria, and new biofuel technologies. Synthetic biology poses profound questions about “what is natural, and what is our relationship to the natural world, as well as scientific freedom, justice, and access to the benefits of technology, and intellectual property rights,” the Hastings Center said.
JCVI will contribute to the project by exploring a range of societal concerns that surround synthetic biology, and the Wilson Center will work with several stakeholders in and out of government to “ensure that the public and policymakers are informed, and that risks are minimized,” the Hastings Center said.
The study will continue earlier work at the Hastings Center that was funded by a planning grant from the Sloan Foundation and which focused on the nonphysical moral concerns raised by synthetic biology, and how those concerns should be considered in public policy.
The project will include three meetings with presentations by an interdisciplinary working group that includes scientists, philosophers, social scientists, public policy experts, and theologians.

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