Genes and Geopolitics

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New frameworks for genetic engineering ethics

There is global competition over the economic and security benefits that stem from genetic engineering. An ANU research cluster, led out of the Australian National University’s National Security College (NSC), by Dirk van der Kley, is exploring these dynamics. The NSC is partnered with InKlude Labs in Bengaluru to develop new synthetic biology frameworks for the Indo-Pacific under a grant from the Australia-India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

The research cluster leverages ANU’s deep expertise on genetic engineering technology, ethics, public opinion and the bioeconomy. All of these impact geopolitics and are impacted by geopolitics. Our work centres on Australia’s innovative environment for the bioeconomy; the global biological supply chain; new ethical and regulatory frameworks for genetic engineering in an era of fractured global cooperation; understanding how publics perceive new technological developments which ultimately defines what is feasible for governments and scientists. Key research programs of this cluster are below.

Quad Biotechnology collaboration

The Quad Tech Network (QTN) is an initiative of the NSC, delivered with support from the Australian Government. The QTN aims to establish and deepen academic and official networks linking the Quad nations – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – in relation to the most pressing technology issues affecting the future security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific. Numerous biotechnology papers and events were delivered under this initiative.

Bio-innovation

Visions, Futures, and the Emerging Bioeconomy in Australia, led by Dr Dan Santos, examines how the emerging bioeconomy (or, particular sectors, areas or applications within it) is being imagined and communicated in the Australian context. ANU researchers work on biotechnology collaboration with Australia’s partners, including significant work on Australia-India biology partnerships.

Public and stakeholder opinion

Public opinion defines what is acceptable to governments and ultimately scientists and businesses. In collaboration with CSIRO, ANU has a project on Public views towards synthetic biology and its applications to society, led by Dr Henry Dixson, that studies what different groups in Australia feel about various genetic engineering applications. Henry also leads a project at the Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology and Western Sydney University on the emerging role of genetic engineering in negative emissions technologies.

Selected publications:

A strategy for Quad biotechnology collaboration

Authors: Dirk van der Kley and Daniel Pavlich
In this paper, Dirk van der Kley and Daniel Pavlich discuss the importance of biotechnology, how the Quad countries and can leverage each other’s’ strengths to advance their capabilities and provide recommendations on the areas of collaboration.

This paper has been written as part of the Quad Tech Network initiative, which is an initiative of the NSC, delivered with support from the Australian Government. It aims to establish and deepen academic and official networks linking the Quad nations – Australia, India, Japan, and the United States – in relation to the most pressing technology issues affecting the future security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.

» Read report

Shaping the Quad’s DNA: How can Quad Countries Manage Biotech’s Opportunities and Risks?

Author: Dirk van der Kley
This paper argues that biotechnology is set to be one of the most lucrative emerging technologies, offering an opportunity for Quad countries to cooperate on biotech standards, ethics, and joint research infrastructure. This opportunity also presents Quad countries a chance to play a role in shaping the biotechnology security debate. To ensure a common approach is taken to biotech, recommendations include a Biotech Standards Trade enabling program, a security and ethics dialogue, a Joint Research Infrastructure Sharing Arrangement, and an evolution of the Quad Vaccine Experts Group into a biotech dialogue with emerging countries.

» Read report

The Quad should commit to a biomanufacturing hub in India

Authors: Saurabh Todi, Shambhavi Naik, Dirk van der Kley and Daniel Pavlich
A discussion document produced by the Takshashila Institution in collaboration with the Australian National University, which recommends Australia, India, Japan and the US establish a Quad-led biomanufacturing hub in India.

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Conceptualizing the democratization of innovation through transitions theory: A case study of biohacking in community science labs

Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions Volume 49, December 2023, 100783

Author: Dan Santos

» Read report

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