Synthetic Biology

At the frontiers of the science of health risk – five areas to watch

by Andrew Maynard January 2, 2013

Cross-posted from Risk Sense This week’s Risk Bites video takes a roller-coaster ride through some of the hottest topics in risk science. Admittedly this is a somewhat personal list, and rather constrained by being compressed into a two and a half minute video for a broad audience. But it does touch on some of the […]

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“We took a rat apart and rebuilt it as a jellyfish”

by Andrew Maynard July 22, 2012

Sometimes you read a science article and it sends a shiver tingle down your spine.  That was my reaction this afternoon reading Ed Yong’s piece on a paper just published in Nature Biotechnology by Janna Nawroth, Kevin Kit Parker and colleagues. The gist of the work is that Parker’s team have created a hybrid biological […]

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World Economic Forum: Top Emerging Technologies Trends

by Andrew Maynard February 16, 2012

For the past few months, the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies has been working on identifying some of the most significant trends in technology innovation.  Published yesterday by WEF, these represent ten areas that we as a council felt are likely to shake things up over the next few years in […]

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What do people think about synthetic biology?

by Andrew Maynard September 9, 2010

The fifth Hart survey of what American adults think about emerging technologies like nanotechnology and synthetic biology was released today by my former colleagues at the Woodrow Wilson Center – the first since I left the group earlier this year. Each summer for the past five years, the Wilson Center has commissioned Hart Research Associates […]

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Synthetic biology, ethics and the hacker culture

by Andrew Maynard August 17, 2010

While the DIY Biotechnology community has grown considerably since this post, the piece still captures something of what is still a young movement, and one that challenges assumptions about top-down technology innovation. Originally posted June 13 2008 Read Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World is Flat” or Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon”, and you get a glimpse into […]

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As scientists create the first synthetic cell, the future safety of synthetic biology will depend on sound science

by Andrew Maynard May 26, 2010

Last week’s announcement from the J. Craig Venter Institute that scientists had created the first-ever synthetic cell was a profoundly significant point in human history, and marked a turning point in our quest to control the natural world.  But the ability to use this emerging technology wisely is already being dogged by fears that we […]

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Deja vu and synthetic biology – will we learn the lessons of nanotech and genetic modification?

by Hilary Sutcliffe May 25, 2010

A guest blog by Hilary Sutcliffe, Director of MATTER, a UK think tank which explores how new technologies can work for us all. The other day, I wrote a piece on the implications of synthetic biology where I  suggested that we “need to place discussions on a science basis, and not get over-distracted by ethical […]

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It’s life Craig, but not as we know it!

by Andrew Maynard May 22, 2010

Typical.  One of the most anticipated technological breakthroughs in years hits the streets, and I’m completely off the web – holed up in an Italian hotel with no internet and no phone. I’m talking of course about J. Craig Venter’s team’s breakthrough in synthesizing a living organism, almost from scratch – published in the journal […]

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Ten emerging technology trends to watch over the next decade

by Andrew Maynard December 25, 2009

Ten years ago at the close of the 20th century, people the world over were obsessing about the millennium bug – an unanticipated glitch arising from an earlier technology.  I wonder how clear it was then that, despite this storm in what turned out to be a rather small teacup, the following decade would see […]

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Reversing the Technological Dilemma

by Guest December 17, 2009

By George Kimbrell, International Center for Technology Assessment, and the Center for Food Safety A guest blog in the Alternative Perspectives on Technology Innovation series Andrew asked us to write about “how technological innovation should contribute to life in the 21st century.”  Technological innovation is often blindly referred to as “progress.”  The question is — […]

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Nanoscale control: Leveraging biology

by Andrew Maynard June 1, 2009

Part 6 of a series on rethinking science and technology for the 21st century The story so far: We are facing an unprecedented confluence of three factors that are forcing us to rethink how we develop and use science and technology to the benefit of society.  Coupling between our action’s and the Earth’s re-actions is […]

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Roll over nanotechnology, synthetic biology is coming!

by Andrew Maynard May 18, 2009

So you’re looking for a new technology concept—something that will stimulate research funding, make a buck or two, and maybe save the world—at least for another year or so.  What do you need? Here’s a quick checklist: Something that’s revolutionary. Evolutionary change doesn’t hack it these days I’m afraid—your new technology needs to make a […]

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New life, old bottles: The video

by Andrew Maynard March 25, 2009

A five-minute primer on the promise and challenge of first-generation synthetic biology As an addendum to the previous post on synthetic biology, the following interview from the Wilson Center provides a great overview of what synthetic biology is all about, and the potential challenges of ensuring its safe development and use: Get the Flash Player […]

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Are we ready for synthetic biology?

by Andrew Maynard March 25, 2009

A new report looks at the challenges of regulating first generation products of synthetic biology. At the J. Craig Venter Institute, scientists are on the verge of creating a living organism from “dead” chemicals, by rebooting a microbe with a new—and completely artificially constructed—genome. At the University of California Berkeley, researchers are modifying microbes to […]

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A 2020 Science Taster

by Andrew Maynard February 19, 2009

Given the recent surge in 2020science readers (thanks to Lon S. Cohen at Mashable), I thought it about time I did a short retrospective—a taster for the type of stuff you can expect to read here.  So here are five pieces from the past year that cover everything from nanotechnology to synthetic biology, and ethics […]

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Darwin, evolution, and the genesis of intelligent design

by Andrew Maynard February 11, 2009

Charles Darwin has a lot to answer for.  He saw the world with new eyes, fundamentally changed our understanding of nature, and upset a lot of people in the process.  200 years after his birth, Darwin’s work underpins modern biology.  His findings still challenge, stimulate and—amazingly—offend people the world over.  And his discoveries continue to […]

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Welcome to the new-look 2020 Science

by Andrew Maynard January 27, 2009

If you are a regular visitor to 2020 Science, you may have noticed some changes creeping into the site in recent days.  The content’s still the same—a clear perspective on developing science and technology responsibly, with an emphasis on nanotechnology and synthetic biology (and anything else that piques my interest).  But hopefully the new layout […]

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Biohacking—synthetic biology for the technologically marginalized

by Andrew Maynard December 26, 2008

Last June I wrote a short piece on biohacking, prompted by a UK report on the social and ethical challenges of synthetic biology.  At the time, I though the aspirations of the nascent biopunk community naively optimistic, but potentially worrying.  Six months on, biohacking is hitting the mainstream press—and gaining momentum. Maybe it was just […]

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Saints or synners?

by Andrew Maynard December 17, 2008

Policy, public perceptions, and the opportunities and challenges of synthetic biology Synthetic biology—a supreme expression of scientific hubris, or the solution to all our problems? Like everything in life, I suspect that the answer to the question is far from black and white.  Yet what is clear is that this emerging science and technology that […]

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