Dirk Stemerding

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Rathenau Institute
Stemerding, Rathenau

Dirk Stemerding is working as a senior researcher Technology Assessment at the Dutch Rathenau Instituut. He participated in the European project Synthetic Biology for Human Health: Ethical and Legal Issues (SYBHEL 2009-2012) in which he was responsible for the work package on public policy. He also contributed to the STOA project Making Perfect Life: bio-engineering in the 21st century (2009-2012).

He is currently leading a work package on synthetic biology in the European project Global Ethics in Science & Technology (GEST 2011-2014) and is involved in a Future Panel project on public health genomics which is part of the European project Parliaments and Civil Society in Technology Assessment (PACITA 2011-2015). In the next four years he will be involved as work package leader in a European Mobilisation and Mutual Learning Action Plan on synthetic biology.

Tue July 9 | 2:00 - 4:00
ABSTRACT: Synbio, Global Health and Governance

First Author: Dr. Conor M.W. Douglas

Other Author: Dirk Stemerding

SynBio practices are being positioned to address major global health issues through advanced vaccine development, diagnostics, drug synthesis, and the detection and remediation of environmental toxins. Such research is –and stands to be-  growing in many parts of the globe, and to include ‘smaller players’ (i.e. iGEM, DIY-Bio), in part due to the particular features of standardization, abstraction, and modular open source parts. To be sure, SynBio is a global endeavour, it has potential for global health, but it will also require global governance. Our understanding of ‘governance’ is not unduly focussed on risks and other potentially negative implications. Instead we understand governance to be the set of institutions and practices involved in the inclusive steering of science and technology towards socially desirable outcomes. This paper reports on original social science research undertaken in project ‘Synthetic Biology for Human Health – Ethical and Legal Issues’ as a part of EU’s FP7 Science and Society program (www.sybhel.org). We report on a workshop we organized for global health experts, SynBio researchers, policy makers and others to identify the positives and productive policy and governance steps that would be needed to foster SynBio addressing major global health issues. Our work outlines the relationship between patent systems, institutional infrastructures, and global health improvements, and discuss some alternative incentive mechanisms for SynBio innovation in global health. We then shift to re-examine what positive and productive governance could mean for SynBio and global health by exploring the role of DIY-Bio and amateur communities, and how opening the research and development discourse in SynBio to various kinds of end-users could facilitate the global uptake and success of its products. Our conclusion suggests roles policy actors could play in fostering positive and productive governance, and the effects what a SynBio roadmap for global health could have in this regard.