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Standards Could Spawn Chinese Collaborations

At the Guardian's Notes & Theories blog this week, Ian Sample ponders how, exactly, "synthetic biologists keep the support of the public." At a recent Royal Academy of Engineering event, he spoke with the Shanghai Institute for Biological Science's Zhao Guoping, who told Sample there is a "need for common international standards for the organic bits and pieces that synthetic biologists want to use as components in their products," and that "standards for security and ethical issues surrounding synthetic biology are also desirable." Zhao added that the "potential dangers of synthetic biology are often raised and rarely underplayed in the media," though this may be for good reason. "If some crazy guy wants to make a new pathogen you can say that he can't be so smart to create something from nothing. He'll copy some known pathogen. We should do research on the present and even extinct pathogens to understand them and know how to treat them so we are well prepared," Zhao said. "This is the most important issue for synthetic biology." As Sample says that "China is set to become a major player in synthetic biology," its Academy of Sciences has begun to prepare a 10-year strategy for research in the field — making collaborations with its investigators particularly appealing, he adds.

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