Synthetic biology involves the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms and devices or the redesign of existing natural biological systems.
It has enormous potential applications and benefits, including the development of cheap anti-malarial drugs, the production of green hydrogen for fuel and the use of programmable cells to treat cancer. There is promise, but also uncertainty about how govern this emerging field. It was the subject of President Obama's first Presidential Commission on Bioethics in the US. A special public dialogue exercise commissioned by the UK Government explored the implications for society of technological development in this area. The Royal Society is undertaking a range of work to address these issues.
There are links on the right to the report of a discussion meeting held at the Society in 2008 and a report of a symposium held with OECD, and the US National Academies of Science in Washington in 2009.
In 2011 and 2012 a seiries of six academies symposia on synthetic biology were held with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the national academies of science and engineering in China and the USA. There is a summary of the London symposium in this blog post.