Daily Video

December 31, 2008

Do It Yourself Biology

The International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) invites students from around the world to craft biological “machines,” or living organisms, using original combinations of DNA and other organic material to help tackle environmental and health problems.

Synthetic biology is a new area of biological research that combines science and engineering to design biological functions and systems. Proponents say the possibilities are endless for this type of research. In this year’s competition teams presented possible new biofuels, drug delivery systems and even bio-beer.

Some people are not sure the research is safe and want more government oversight for all biology labs and experiments.


“I am constantly learning in this profession, and the students are the best teachers oftentimes.”– Gary Wessel, faculty sponsor, Brown University IGEM Team

“I don’t trust them to regulate themselves. I don’t see it as plausible that a person, perhaps even a teenager, would be allowed to build and release an animal virus that could be transmitted to human to human.” — Roger Brent, director, Molecular Sciences Institute:

“By having an organization who wants to promote on the one hand innovation and education and learning, it’s also a great opportunity for us to help be innovators in regulatory policy and safety, too.” — Jason Bobe, co-founder, DIYbio

Warm Up Questions

1. What are genes?

2. What is genetic engineering?

3. Can you name some products that are genetically engineered?

Discussion Questions

1. The experts disagree about whether DIY biology is safe. What do you think? Why?

2. What are some products that you would like to see built by synthetic biologists?

3. How are biological and conventional inventions similar or different?

Additional Resources

Read this transcript



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