Synthetic biology creatively combines biology and engineering to produce innovations across multiple sectors. It is a multidisciplinary field of science and technology – based on a strong genomics foundation – that promises to unlock new solutions to some of the world’s most vexing problems, from food security to climate change to cancer treatment.
The 2018 Canada SynBio conference held in March in Toronto, Ontario, was the first national conference in Canada focused on synthetic biology, in partnership with ISED Canada, Genome Canada and regional Genome Centres, the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, MaRS Discovery District and Autodesk, alongside sponsors Integrated DNA Technologies, Twist Bioscience, and CropLife Canada.
Stakeholders from government, business, academia and others agreed on four themes for moving forward: Industry and Commercialization, Public Relations and Trust, Training and Education, and the Pursuit of a Future Vision and Governance.
While there remain significant policy and regulatory hurdles to navigate, Canada has the potential to be a global synthetic biology leader in health care, environment, natural resources, agri-food, advanced materials and manufacturing and discovery research.
But a concerted policy strategy is required for the sector to advance in a way that addresses its growth requirements, supports the effective allocation of resources, and pro-actively confronts the broader social implications of synthetic biology. Canada’s success in this field depends on it.
For more information, read the Canada SynBio 2018 discussion paper The Present and Future State of Synthetic Biology in Canada (Kinder, Jeff and Robbins, Mark, The Institute on Governance, 2018).