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A framework for the fair and responsible governance of synthetic biology


Synthetic biology aims to exercise control in the design, characterization and construction of living organisms and biological parts. No longer the domain of science fiction literature, it has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years, accompanied by great promises and grave risks. Law and governance lag behind. Lab experimentation and field trials take place in a legal vacuum. On top of companies and research institutes, a vibrant do-it-yourself community is engaged in research, claiming to democratize innovation. Global deliberations on the environmental and socio-economic impacts have only recently begun under the auspices of UN multilateral environmental agreements, and policy-relevant academic analysis is urgently needed. Based on my academic record in international environmental law and governance of novel technologies and my empirical knowledge of intergovernmental negotiations, complemented by training in socio-legal methodologies during the fellowship, I will develop a new integrative framework for the governance of synthetic biology. It will be built upon: a) an assessment of the current state of international law and governance, including an analysis of regulatory gaps and novel normative challenges; b) an examination of existing theoretical frameworks on risk management and responsible research and innovation, including gendered approaches to risk that have been understudied to date; and c) a typology of actors involved in synthetic biology research, including an analysis of who does what, why, and how they envisage regulation, with a particular focus on gene editing in agriculture. Aiming at improving accountability and enhancing legitimacy, both of law and governance and of the innovation process, this framework will not only bridge gaps in scholarly efforts but will also facilitate decision making, ensuring that synthetic biology applications promote the global objectives of food security, sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Via Calepina 14
38122 Trento
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 183 473,28