Team:UNSW Australia/HP/Silver

The end goal of Bleb is a new, highly adaptable product for customisation and use by any interested collaborators to facilitate the application of synthetic biology expression systems outside the lab. Since this would involve potential release of our biological product (OMVs) into the natural environment, our team decided that first and foremost for human practices it was necessary to investigate the legal culture and framework that would dictate the use of our technology in Australia.

This investigation led us to opening a very interesting, philosophically rich dialogue with members of the UNSW law faculty. We firstly met with associate professor Lyria Bennet Moses, whose research explores the relationship between technology and law. Through this conversation, our team came to understand the evolution of law to accommodate emerging technologies and fields, such as synthetic biology. We discovered that law is passed with an imagined set of future technologies in mind, to which the passing legislation will apply. This forward-thinking model of the regulation of emerging technologies acts as a type of safeguard against anything dangerous to come. At the same time, however, this same model can limit the capacity of beneficial emerging technologies to thrive. Depending upon the applications which our OMV technology will be applied to, we ourselves may meet this hurdle in the future. To accommodate any new technologies, such as ours, there may be a need to clarify or repeal existing laws. Thus, our investigation into the ways in which our project is regulated turned out more complex issues than we first anticipated.

To expand upon this Silver human practices activity investigating the interaction of biolegalities with our project design, we further developed a relationship and dialogue with the UNSW law faculty by formally interviewing both Lyria and senior lecturer Marc de Leeuw, for our Integrated Human Practices. These interviews have been published online and available for public viewing by any interested minds. We also hosted a Synthetic Biology Symposium event for our Integrated Human Practices, at which Marc de Leeuw featured as a guest panellist in order to discuss issues involving biolegalities.

It is our hope that this dialogue and relationship we established with the UNSW law faculty during our project will continue in the future, in order to ensure future project design is developed with biolegality carefully considered. It is our desire that this technology be designed and implemented thoughtfully in all aspects, including legally, ensuring successful integration into society and the scientific community as it develops. As our final product, OMVs, are non-replicative, there are fewer legal barriers in place to restrict their use, however, discussions with these experts have only emphasised the need for comprehensive consultations in the future. This should include legal advisors, but also parties who hope to use our OMVs and communities who will be effected by their use.