The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering are jointly hosting a two day symposium this week to discuss the economic and social impact of synthetic biology.  For the first time, the expertise and networks of the six science and engineering academies from the UK, China and US have been brought together, producing a unique opportunity for researchers, policy makers and firms interested in this emerging field.

The UK event is the first in a series of three symposia, the second will take place in China in October 2011 and the third in the USA in early 2012. This week’s symposium is exploring the potential for synthetic biology research to lead to novel tools and technology, as well as the challenges provoked by these innovations.

Synthetic biology is an emerging technology, underpinned by both engineering and science, which aims to design and engineer biologically based parts, create new devices and systems and also redesign existing natural biological systems. Applications being discussed at the symposium include biosensors to detect pathogens and new ways of producing biofuels and fine chemicals.

Sir William Wakeham, Honorary International Secretary of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: "We are delighted that these six academies have come together from three different continents - the potential exploitation and development of new applications and regulations for synthetic biology will not be limited by continental borders and neither should the public debate. This unique series of symposia will help build vital relations and create new opportunities for collaboration between leaders in the field."

Notes for editors

  1. The Academy published two reports on the field in 2009: a technical inquiry Synthetic Biology: scope, applications and implications:
    News release: Academy launches 'Synthetic Biology: scope, applications and implications'
    and the UK’s first public dialogue on the emerging field of synthetic biology:
    News release: UK public intrigued but cautious about new field of synthetic biology
  2. The Royal Society is the UK’s national academy of science.  Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as a provider of independent scientific advice, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. Our expertise is embodied in the Fellowship, which is made up of the finest scientists from the UK and beyond.
  3. The Royal Academy of Engineering
    Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email:  Jane Sutton