Upon our initiative the Swiss National Center of Competence Engineering Life (NCCR MSE) has teamed up with the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) in Rome to build a think tank focusing on the ethical challenges of synthetic biology and molecular systems engineering. This think tank
During a recent visit to Rome members of this NCCR together with the PAL outlined the strategy and goals of this cooperation and set the pace for this aspiring project.
The engineering of molecular and cellular systems for clinical applications capitalizes on the unique competences achieved worldwide within the past 10 years. Big leaps towards applying engineering principles to clinics and to restore body functions are provided by the development of gene-based and cell-based therapies. Successful attempts include the restoration of vision, the control of metabolic disorders, or the growth of tissues and organs for replacement. While in the long run such systems engineering approaches will help to cure pertinent diseases of mankind, methods to modify, edit, correct and/or complement the genome of patients can be also used to improve a person’s lifestyle, or be even misused in various ways. To address the ethical aspects of such attempts towards engineering life, this conference brings together stakeholders in developing and applying approaches to edit and control living systems, clinicians applying such procedures, ethicists, philosophers, historians and the cultural sector addressing such applications, and other relevant representatives of our global society. The conference is organized by the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering of the University of Basel and ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Pontifical Academy for Life, Vatican City; and Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Italy. More