National Policy for Synthetic Biology

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A Draft foresight paper on synthetic biology has been released recently by the Department of Biotechnology. The department has focused on the need for a national policy to consolidate India՚s stand on the issue. The document clearly states that India should avoid conflicting stands on science on one hand and policy on the other.

The 70-page document looks at the global policies and protocols to be kept in mind while developing a policy. The document also attempts to define synthetic biology and the way intellectual property rights would be applicable resulting in products and processes. Later, this document would help in creation of a national policy.

Synthetic Biology and Therapeutic Approach


  • Synthetic biology is the science of using genetic sequencing, editing and modification towards creating unnatural organisms or organic molecules that could function in living systems.
  • This biology enables scientists to design and synthesize new sequences of DNA from scratch.
  • The paper has been developed through a consultative process with experts from:
    • Various organizations
    • Non-profit organizations
    • Some people from the industry
  • It is a new field however the definition of what would be included and what won՚t is not clear as per the Department of Biotechnology.

Applications of Synthetic Biology

  • Developing synthetic organisms for vaccination.
  • Creating natural products in a lab such as vanillin.
  • The organic compound extracted from vanilla seeds could now be grown in yeasts along with additional plant genomes.
  • It could be used to make natural compounds such as artemisinin for the treatment of malaria and Car T cell therapy of cancer treatment.
  • It could be used in the fashion industry as well with the some of the companies exploring the possibility of dyeing jeans without producing hazardous waste.
  • To create food additives or brew proteins, some companies are using it to deliver fixed nitrogen to plants instead of using fertilizers, engineering microbes.

Way Ahead

  • It՚s time to create a policy for synthetic biology now more than ever due to its rapid evolvement because of new discoveries every year.
  • There is a need to look at the benefits of the products along with the risk it poses to biodiversity according to the researchers and Group Leader of Microbial Engineering at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) .
  • With more advances in the field, the regulations for synthetic biology are likely to be formalized.
  • In India the legislation regarding genetically modified crops are still in a lurch.
  • Since 2013, the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill is pending approval in Parliament due to opposition from several interest groups.
  • At present approvals for such crops are given by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under MoEFCC along with Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) under the Department of Biotechnology.

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