Synthetic biology might one day change the world: it carries potential in such diverse fields as energy production, the development of new medication, or the exploitation of new bio-synthetic resources. What its possible consequences will be for health, society, and the environment remains to be seen. In Germany, public acceptance for the artificial production of living organisms has hitherto been low.

The EU-funded dialogue project SYNENERGENE wants to tackle prejudice against synthetic biology by encouraging public discourse and by rendering research more responsible. Until 2017, the EU-funding scheme MMLAP (Mobilisation Mutual Learning Action Plan) will be supporting more than 100 activities, such as opportunities for public participation, expert dialogues, scientific analyses, and artistic reflections.

2015 will bring the public debate about pros and cons of the new biotechnology to Karlsruhe. The ZAK | Centre for Cultural and General Studies will be hosting three events on synthetic biology in the course of the summer, both at the EFFEKTE Science Festival and the 300th City Anniversary Festival. The series will be opened with the science-on-stage event ‘Supernova’. Bio-hacker Rüdiger Trojok and technology assessment researcher Christopher Coenen (both KIT-ITAS) will be on stage with actors from the Staatstheater Karlsruhe in the EFFEKTE Dome on castle square on June, 28 at 8:30 pm. In the course of the first Karlsruhe Science Film Days, the Science Art Film Festival BIO•FICTION will be staying in Karlsruhe. BIO•FICTION@Karlsruhe will be showing selected films on SynBio in the State Museum of Natural History Karlsruhe on July, 7 at 7:30 pm, followed by a panel discussion.

Finally, a great public discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of scientific innovation in general and synthetic biology in particular will take place on September, 16 at 7:30 pm as a part of the talk-series “Stadtgespräche” (‘city talks’). In the form of an open “fishbowl discussion”, citizens will be able to enter into a dialogue with KIT-researcher and SYNENERGENE-coordinator Christopher Coenen, philosopher Dr. Joachim Boldt (Freiburg), and SynBio-researcher Dr. Michael Liss (ThermoFisher). The discussion under the title “City Talk: City of Renewal – City of Innovation: From Karl Drais to Synthetic Biology” will be hosted by KIT-ITAS researcher Julia Hahn in the KA-300 festival pavilion in the Palace Garden.

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Read a report (PDF) about the discussion


Banner: Carsten Jünger /