This GYA working group was active until June 2021. It is now dormant, and can be picked up again in the future by any GYA member(s) interested in the topic. For the time being, the GYA working group on Biodiversity will also cover DIY biology topics.
Synthetic Biology relates to human-made biological mechanisms, artificial biochemical, and cellular pathways created using natural and synthetic biomolecules and their component materials. (ii) Nucleic acids used for information storage and transfer; where digital information is encoded employing nucleotide sequences of synthetic RNA and DNA molecules. (iii) Semi-artificial organisms, where part of, or even an entire, genome is integrated into a living cell to invoke desired new functions and capabilities. (iv) Biosensors: biosynthetic devices capable of sensing and reporting some ambient phenomenon such as brain activity or presence of toxins in the environment. (v) Synthetic custom-designed proteins; novel protein structures with new or improved functions. (vi) Finally, synthetic biology can be used for materials production. Here, living cells function as microscopic molecular foundries to produce materials with desired, genetically encoded, properties. These technologies have both benefits and dangers associated with them.
Our GYA Working Group aims to promote the DIY Biology culture and awareness, with a special focus on young people, and links to policy, bio-security, international agenda, and artistic/futuristic influences in popular science. Advisors need to go beyond the usual sources of ‘accredited’ experts located in academia and industry to include a new generation of experts – some of whom may have little formal academic training – developing new biological products in kitchens, garages, high schools, and community centres around the world. The GYA is well placed to lead such an initiative, as its members, alumni, together with its role as the main point-of-contact for the global community of National Young Academies, comprise the most extensive network of emerging research leaders around the world.
The project will develop a communication platform between seasoned academic researchers and non-academic DIY biologists. Ideally, other stakeholders (biotech and pharma companies) could be folded into future processes to further unify and address opportunities and challenges and of this novel field.
The DIY Biology group will aim to enable dialogue and collaboration between academics and non-academics, as well as policymakers. The project outcome will provide further capacity building among stakeholder groups, enabling development of skill sets that will contribute to regulation, clarification, and unification of the field. The group will promote the basics of the ‘post-genomic literacy’ in society to lay the foundation for long-term relationships between academia and DIY maker spaces. DIY Biology has a potential of addressing some of the SDGs and is a great example of heavily promoted Open Science. Lessons learned may permeate and foster other fields of Open Science.
The group is currently working on a scoping report on a “DIY Biology Research Proposal”, which will analyse the global DIY Biology landscape. This activity is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation; initially for a 12-months period (June 2018-June 2019). Finalising the report has been postponed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The group is aiming to produce a report on the prospects, risks, and opportunities around DIY Synthetic Biology. Additionally, the group is exploring the development of a potential online course on bioethics and biosafety for non-scientists, DIY biologists, and biohackers.
They have run two online surveys, which were widely shared with the GYA membership and relevant stakeholders outside the GYA:
– one on the global DIY Biology landscape: the aim is to explore the global landscape of DIY biology and understand the challenges and opportunities in the field. The information gained will be used to inform policies that can help support the maximising of benefits and minimising of the associated risks related to the DIY biology field.
– and another on the perception of bio-risks: the aim is to understand the perception of bio-risks associated with Do-it-yourself (DIY) Biology. The information gained will be used to inform policies that can help support the maximising of benefits and minimising of the associated risks related to the DIY biology field.