Synthetic biology, genome editing, biohacking - challenges of the new genetic technologies

  • Type of event:

    Public expert discussion

  • Venue:

    Deutscher Bundestag, Platz der Republik, 11011 Berlin
    Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus, Anhörungssaal MELH 3.101

  • Date:


  • Time:


Synthetic biology (Synbio for short), genome editing, CRISPR-Cas, germline interventions, biohacking - is genetic engineering unfolding its much-vaunted potential in the second decade of the 21st century? Can it finally be used comprehensively and sustainably thanks to technological innovations - or are the danger scenarios of opponents and cautioners now coming true?

In 2015, the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag (TAB) presented Working Report No. 164 "Synthetic Biology - the next stage of biotechnology and genetic engineering" on behalf of the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment (ABFTA). One concern was to discuss synthetic biology in the context of genetic engineering and genome editing. With do-it-yourself biology (DIY biology, also known as biohacking), the expert discussion took up an aspect that has been the subject of particular public interest for some years and was dealt with in greater depth in the TAB report at the request of the Research Committee. The activities of many DIY biologists are oriented towards the central vision of synthetic biology, namely to remodel or redesign biological systems ever more simply and in a comprehensive way. Three key questions were discussed in the technical meeting.

  • What could non-institutional biotechnology and genetic engineering research do to complement the established science and innovation system? What kind of funding would be conceivable/appropriate for this? What alternative ways of achieving formulated goals are discussed?
  • How can and how should biosafety and biosecurity be guaranteed in times of increasingly easily accessible and applicable techniques/methods for "unlimited gene modification possibilities", such as those attributed to CRISPR-Cas and related genome editing technologies - in DIY laboratories and in conventional research institutions?
  • What status should molecular biology knowledge and skills have in the future? What kind of social participation in the field of biotechnology and gene technology is desirable: (co-)discussion, (co-)steering of research or active (co-)research?

Further Information

Recording of the event