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15 Macquarie L.J. 27 (2015)
The Synthetic Yeast Project as a Topic for Social Scientific Investigation

handle is hein.journals/macq15 and id is 37 raw text is: 





              THE SYNTHETIC YEAST PROJECT AS A TOPIC
                  FOR SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION


                         JANE CALVERT* AND EMMA FROW**



       The synthetic yeast project (Sc2.0) is a visible example of the recent rise in
       prominence of eukaryotic synthetic biology. Drawing on an analysis of news
       stories, scientific papers, and our involvement with the scientific community,
       we describe the synthetic yeast project and some of its precursors, and we
       identify the technical, social and conceptual issues that we find particularly
       salient as researchers in Science and Technology Studies. We discuss the
       'design principles'that are central to the project, and how these align Sc2.0
       with the mainstream engineering agenda in synthetic biology. We identify
       the project's preference for openness regarding intellectual property, and
       compare this to ownership approaches in other branches of synthetic
       biology. We also argue that a study of yeast encourages us to consider more
       explicitly the spatial and temporal dimensions of the organisms used in
       synthetic biology. We conclude that social scientific investigation into the
       synthetic yeast project raises important questions that will help us better
       understand the movement of synthetic biology into more complex organisms
       and systems, and assist us in further exploring the tensions between
       engineering and biology that are central to this emerging field.



                                 I      INTRODUCTION

Yeast is a familiar microorganism. It is central to the production of everyday foods like bread
and beer, and it is scientifically well understood. The familiarity of yeast makes the decision
to build a synthetic 'designer' version of the entire yeast genome all the more significant. The
goal of the synthetic yeast project (known as Sc2.0) is to create a novel, rationalised version
of the genome of the yeast species Saccharomyces cerevisiae ('S. cerevisiae').In March
2014, the complete synthesis of one of the chromosomes of S. cerevisiae was announced,2
and received widespread scientific and media coverage. In this commentary we discuss the
Sc2.0 project, paying attention to those features of the project, and of the synthetic
organism, that we find particularly distinctive or noteworthy.




* BSc (Sussex), MSc (London), DPhil (Sussex), Reader in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, School of
   Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh.
   BA MA PhD (Cantab) MSc (Edinburgh), Assistant Professor, School of Biological and Health Systems
   Engineering, and Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University.
   The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments on this article. Jane Calvert
   would like to thank Sonia Allen and Wendy Rogers for an invitation to attend a workshop on the Ethics and
   Governance of Synthetic Biology at Macquarie University in December 2014 where preliminary ideas for this
   paper were developed. This research was made possible by funding from the European Research Council
   (6165 10-ENLIFE), and the UK's Biological and Biotechnological Sciences Research Council (ERASynBio-
   IESY).
1 The National Science Foundation, Synthetic Yeast 2.0, Building the world's first synthetic eukaryotic genome
   together (2015) Synthetic Yeast 2.0 <http://syntheticyeast.org/>.
2 Narayana Annaluru et al, 'otal synthesis of a functional designer eukaryotic chromosome' (2014) 344(6179)
   Science 55.

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