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What do we do?

Below you can find some examples of past and current projects illustrative of our work. 

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We advanced our work in a variety of ways that integrated research, education, and stakeholder engagement. Some of the ways Bio.Polis supported activities addressing the changing role of biotechnology in society included:

  • Strategic Policy Engagements: We built forums for discourse between stakeholders in government, academia, industry, and civil society on our shared biological futures.
  • Leadership Programs: We designed fellowships, competitions, and other personal and professional growth opportunities for emerging leaders working at the intersection of biotechnology and society.
  • Curricular Innovations: We developed educational experiences that promote exploration and learning at the intersection of biological engineering, design, security, ethics, and governance.
  • Technology Policy Research: We conducted interdisciplinary research focused on how we organize, govern and value biological innovations

Strategic Policy Engagements

World Economic Forum Global Future Council on Synthetic Biology

A leadership council of technologists, social scientists, policy and ethics experts from around the world leading initiatives to promote synthetic biology development for global benefit.

U.S. Senate Hearing on Securing U.S. Leadership in the Bioeconomy

Expert testimony examining the bioeconomy, the federal government’s role in the bioeconomy, the potential risks of life-science research, and the necessary policies and practices for the advancement of biotechnology.

White House Summit on America's Bioeconomy

Facilitating executive level engagement with the US federal government to develop national priorities and strategies for biotechnology innovation.

Engaging with New Developments in U.S. Bioeconomy Policy

Stanford Bio.Polis has begun to develop resources that might help researchers, industry leaders, and advocates across civil society understand what these policies require and on what timescales, who is involved, and where there may be opportunities for targeted interventions in the policy process

Leadership Programs

Synbio Leadership Excellence Accelerator Program

A fellowship promoting biotechnology leadership in the public interest for early to mid-career professionals working in or adjacent to synthetic biology.

International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition

An international innovation and education testbed engaging over 50,000 students from 60 countries in considering the societal context of their work over the past 15 years.

Bio Futures Fellows

A Stanford graduate student and postdoctoral fellowship supporting programs at the intersection of biotechnology, ethics, and public policy.

Curricular Innovations

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Design Thinking for Public Policy Innovators

A Stanford course applying design thinking methods to complex policy challenges, including “managing safety and security during the biotechnology boom.”

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Human Practices

Designing a growing community and set of resources to enable the next generation of bioengineers to explore “how their work affects the world and their world affects their work”. 

Participatory Design Tools

Karen Ingram, Emerging Technology Fellow at the Stanford, is developing new tools to engage anyone in synthetic biology and exploring the ways values shape technology design.

Communicating Scientific Choices in an Era Without Boundaries

A class designed by Michael Specter on how we tell the story of science at a time when the answers are almost never clear.  Lectures focused on the future of synthetic biology; gene editing and social justice; the morass of climate change; the battle over the safety and utility of genetically engineered organisms, and the enduring opposition to vaccination.

Scientific Complexity and Social Narratives

A seminar led by Michael Specter in which the students analyzed long form journalism from The New Yorker on topics such as the unseen difficulties in assessing our carbon footprint; the risks and benefits of deploying gene drive to alter the lives of entire species; the growing debate over Geoengineering, and the impact of pandemic influenza on the world.​​​​​​​

How to Grow (Almost) Anything

Designing the “principles and practices” elements of a course to teach the cutting edge of bioengineering and synthetic biology to bio-enthusiasts and those new to the life sciences alike, now run via MIT with faculty from across many organizations.  

Technology & Policy Research

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Global Testbeds for Science & Policy

Leveraging an international competition in genetic engineering to understand how we conceptualize, organize and incentivize responsible innovation.

Regulatory Anomalies

An analysis of the politics of how emerging technologies are handled in regulatory structures, illustrated by a case study on gene drives.

Editing Biosecurity

A study of the evolving security and governance landscape through the lens of advances in genome editing.

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Visibility Initiative for Responsible Science

A project to promote learning surrounding dual-use risk management practices in life science research through the development of case studies and information sharing standards.

Intended Consequences and Conservation Biotechnology

Contributions to a Special Issue of Conservation Science and Practice on risk in genetic interventions, and a critique of the ethos of restraint in conservation science.

Genome Editing and Global Health Security

An review of how CRISPR and genome editing technologies are positioned to revolutionize our approaches to global health security.

Ethical Principles and Synthetic Biology

An examination of ethical principles to guide engineering biology research.

Learning to Deal with Dual Use

A perspective on the need and challenge to learn to manage risks of misuse of knowledge, tools, and technologies in the life sciences as quickly as we learn to engineer life.

Embracing Experimentation in Biosecurity Governance

An argument for taking an experimental approach to biosecurity governance as we learn to manage ambiguity and uncertainty in what constitutes security concerns and how to manage them.