Ethics and Social Responsibility

The ethics of artificial cell research has been a core concern of European researchers since the first EU project PACE in this area. That project produced a guideline document that ECCell is adhering to and that has already served as important for the formulation of ethical guidelines for the field of Synthetic Biology. 

Although many issues are common to Nanotechnology and Biotechnology in general, there are a number of special issues raised by this research, in particular as the creation of novel organisms approaches.

Activities have included coordination with the DFG on Synthetic Biology in Germany, with the ISSP in Denmark's special initiative on Living Technology, with the Dutch expert meeting on Synthetic Biology and ongoing support for the European Center for Living Technology based in Venice, Italy. The ECCell project participated in editing a Special Issue on Living Technology in the Artificial Life Journal (under review) with extensive ethical discussion of issues.

ECCell has coordinated activities with the projects in the chem-bio IT proactive initiative (BactoCom,NeuNeu, MATCHIT) and McCaskill, RUB and Rasmussen, SDU have helped set up a new coordinated action in this area called COBRA.

In addition, McCaskill and Rasmussen were on the executive committee for a FET-flagship preproposal entitled Sustainable Personal Living Technology, SPLiT. This large scale federated initiative aims to produce a sustainable manufacturing technology based on linking chem-bio IT with a personal fabricator network. Additional project proposals are being developed in this area. 

Finally, ECCell has spawned two follow on project proposals, one in Europe and one in New Zealand, currently under review, in which ethical and societal impact will be further explored.