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Will the Nagoya Protocol impact your synthetic biology research?

November 04, 2013

WASHINGTON - The United Nations (UN) is working to ensure that the benefits of genetic resources are shared in a fair and equitable way via the Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity, though questions remain about how this treaty will impact research in synthetic biology.

A new report from the Synthetic Biology Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars looks at how the protocol may affect U.S. researchers working in the field of synthetic biology.

The Nagoya Protocol was adopted in 2010 to provide a transparent legal framework for sharing genetic resources. "Its objective is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity," according to the UN.

But the report finds significant uncertainty surrounding what sorts of genetic material is covered and when the protocol would go into effect. For example:

Would synthetic DNA or "biobricks" be covered? Would genetic samples collected prior to the ratification of the treaty be covered? Would digital DNA sequences shared over the web be covered?

Despite this uncertainty and despite the fact the United States is not a signatory to the Nagoya Protocol or the Convention on Biological Diversity, the report suggests that U.S. researchers engage in these discussions as they develop, verify the origin of the genetic material that they use, and ensure that such material was taken in compliance with the domestic law of a provider country.
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The report will be released on Nov. 8 in conjunction with a panel discussion focused on the impact of the Nagoya Protocol on U.S. and other researchers working in the area of synthetic biology.

At the event, the report authors, Margo Bagley of the University of Virginia School of Law and Arti Rai of the Duke Law Center for Innovation Policy at Duke University School of Law, will discuss their findings. Leonard Hirsch of the Smithsonian Institution and Joshua Sarnoff of the DePaul University College of Law will provide context for the findings.

The event will be held Nov. 8 from noon to 2:00 pm EST in the 5th Floor Conference Room of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Wilson Center is located in the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW in Washington, D.C.

You must register to attend the event. Please RSVP here: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/rsvp?eid=29129&pid=116

For directions, visit: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/directions

The event will also be webcast live here: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-nagoya-protocol-and-synthetic-biology-research-look-the-potential-impacts No RSVP is necessary to view the webcast.

Copies of the report will be available at the event and online on Nov. 8 at: http://www.synbioproject.org/events/archive/6672/

To learn more about the Synthetic Biology Project, visit: http://www.synbioproject.org/about/

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Science and Technology Innovation Program

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