Experts release synthetic biology scorecard

A U.S. public-policy think tank recently released a scorecard it plans to use to monitor the federal government's progress on adopting 18 recommendations related to the emerging science of synthetic biology.

By issuing the scorecard, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is making it known that it believes progress regarding the proposals has been limited, according to Nature.

The 18 recommendations are part of a report, entitled "New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies," that was made at the request of President Barack Obama in May 2010. Obama made the request, in part, as a response to the publication of the first synthetic bacterial genome by J Craig Venter and his colleagues.

Synthetic biology, the design and creation of artificial biological systems, is a relatively new field that poses a variety of bioethical and biosafety concerns.

Despite the potential risks, the Wilson Center scorecard said that the executive office of the President has yet to begin any activity towards the completing report's first recommendation that U.S. government conduct a comprehensive inventory of its current funding for synthetic biology research by no later than June 2012.

"They said they haven't been able to work on it," David Rejeski, the director of the center's Synthetic Biology Project, said, Nature reports. "We couldn't find any evidence that there was any activity going on."