Card game helps lay out public views

A UNIQUE project which used a card game to help collate people's opinions about a new area of biological research has concluded that it needs careful regulation if its promise is to be realised.

Synthetic biology is a new area of research combining engineering, biology and IT, and aims to build entirely new biological parts and systems or modify existing ones.

Potential applications include new non-surgical medical interventions, new systems to identify environmental contaminants and novel methods to produce food, drugs, chemicals or energy.

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The "dialogue project", which used a card game to gauge opinion, concluded that there was no serious fundamental objection to the idea of synthetic biology amongst participants.

The survey was carried out by the ESRC Genomics Forum, based at Edinburgh University.

Professor Steve Yearley, of the forum, said: "This novel consultation suggests that members of the public see benefits in this approach, though there are also important concerns about regulation and malign applications."

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