By Mark Dwortzan
On December 3 and 4, Boston University convened a workshop exploring how synthetic biology—the engineering of genetic “circuits” in living cells and organisms to enable them to perform specified tasks—can help address climate change.
Participants, who included thought leaders in science, economics, policy and ethics, considered a wide range of complex challenges and potential benefits of proposed synthetic biology approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Among the presenters and moderators were four researchers affiliated with the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change who explored some of the scientific and policy implications of tackling climate change with a synthetic biology toolset.
In a session on land, atmosphere and ocean systems, Jerry Melillo, a senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory, highlighted the strong interactions among carbon, nitrogen and phosphate cycles that present opportunities and limits to any biological solution to mitigating greenhouse gases (GHGs). He observed that it will likely take decades of monitoring to fully understand how ecosystems and soils respond to human-initiated changes in the climate system. Read more …
Photo: MIT biological engineers have devised a programming language that can be used to give new functions to E. coli bacteria. Image: Janet Iwasa