Ethics Guidelines for Sc2.0

View all posters

Anna Sliva, Jef Boeke, Debra Mathews

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States

Synthetic biology is a rapidly changing field that is always on the edge of a new frontier. In 2010, Craig Venter’s team synthesized the entire Mycloplasma mycoides genome and transplanted into another species of bacterium, Mycoplasma capricolum, resulting in the first living organism with a fully synthetic genome. As such advancements are emerging at a swift pace, it crucial to consider not only the scientific challenges that will be faced, but the ethical and policy challenges, as well. Ideally, such consideration takes place in advance of the science, though that is not always possible. Ethical consideration is of particular importance in this field, as many of the new discoveries have ‘dual-uses’, holding potential to both benefit and harm. In 2011, Dymond et al. spearheaded a project similar to Venter’s, but on a larger scale. The Sc2.0 project aims to synthesize the genome of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and is anticipated to result in the first eukaryotic organism with a fully synthesized genome. This is a massive, collaborative project that involves diverse scientists from multiple academic and commercial institutions from across the globe. The project also includes a group of motivated citizen scientists from the United States. With scientists from such different backgrounds working together on this single project, it is essential that everyone is well informed and conscientious with regard to the ethical considerations related to this project. Here, we propose a set of recommendations and guidelines to govern the Sc2.0 project, and to which all collaborator agree to adhere to as this project moves forward. We believe that this proactive effort to have a unified vision about the goals and expectations of this sort of collaboration can serve as a model for other similarly collaborative, global projects.