Next steps for European synthetic biology: a strategic vision from ERASynBio

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Publication : avril 2014
Execuyive Summary

Synthetic biology is a key enabling technology with the potential to fundamentally change the approach, tools and techniques of modern biological research and innovation, to the benefit of the bioeconomy and society as a whole.

In this Strategic Vision, synthetic biology is defined as the engineering of biology: the deliberate (re)design and construction of novel biological and biologically based parts, devices and systems to perform new functions for useful purposes, that draws on principles elucidated from biology and engineering.

Beyond this definition, synthetic biology represents a new approach to biological engineering through the convergence of expertise in biology, engineering, chemistry, physics and computer science. Due in part to this truly interdisciplinary nature, synthetic biology has the potential to enhance a myriad of industrial sectors including industrial biotechnology and bioenergy, chemicals, medicine, agriculture and environmental remediation, and research and development tools.

The field of synthetic biology has been widely recognised for less than 10 years. Despite this novelty, it has demonstrated real potential to contribute to grand societal challenges including lifelong health and wellbeing, energy and food security, and adaption
to environmental change. Europe stands ideally placed to take advantage of the synthetic biology revolution, with world-class academic institutions and an innovative biotechnology industry; however the long-term potential of this field can only be realised through strategic international co-operation. In contrast to well-established life science or engineering disciplines, with long-standing and integrated national programmes, synthetic biology is at an early stage of development. This presents a remarkable opportunity
to form a coherent and coordinated European and global policy framework, thus avoiding fragmentation and encouraging the sustainable and responsible development of the field.

To capitalise on these opportunities, a consortium of research funding and policy organisations have come together through the European Commission funded European Research Area Network in Synthetic Biology (ERASynBio). The ERASynBio project has 16 partners from 14 European Countries, with observers in Europe and the US. Together they have been working to enhance European and global synthetic biology by structuring and coordinating national efforts and investment, jointly striving to address a broad range of synthetic biology needs including: scientific, technical and societal research challenges; community building across the European Research Area; training and education; data and infrastructure; future industrial needs; and public engagement.

One of ERASynBio’s primary objectives is to map existing activities in synthetic biology and, through consultation with leading researchers and other stakeholders, develop a strategic agenda to guide the emergence of the field within Europe. The ERASynBio
Strategic Vision represents the culmination of these strategic activities, setting out an ambitious vision for the future of European synthetic biology and highlighting major opportunities and challenges over the next five to ten years. This vision is accompanied
by a series of targeted recommendations designed to empower national and international funding organisations, policy bodies and other stakeholders.
This strategic framework aims to support the development of this important research field and the enable the realisation of the economic and societal benefits of synthetic biology.
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    Créé le 9 mai 2014
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