The Present and Future State of Synthetic Biology in Canada

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The synthetic biology community convened on March 6-7, 2018 at the “Canada Synbio 2018” Conference and Workshop as part of an ongoing effort to raise the profile and capacity of the synthetic biology community in Canada. As an emerging discipline at the cutting edge of technological development and scientific progress, synthetic biology is faced with an important set of challenges and opportunities in its process of continued development. The conference brought together a wide range of presenters and stakeholders in the interest not only of promoting and cultivating the synthetic biology community of practice, but also to begin establishing the common objectives and parameters for the field.

The Institute on Governance was invited to help to outline the common difficulties, opportunities and prospects for future action across a broad range of subject matter that would ultimately culminate in this discussion paper (VF). The purpose of the discussion paper is to highlight some of the common themes and issue areas that arose throughout the event with an eye to identifying key sites of engagement, agreement and contestation. This work will help provide a basis for the synthetic biology community in Canada to engage in future collective action, including the development of a stronger community of practice, and more strategic policy positioning and coordinated public engagement.

One important finding which should contextualize all others is that there is clear appetite for greater collaboration and collective venture in the Canadian synthetic biology community. Some of the basic foundations for moving synthetic biology forward need further development and should constitute the first-tier priority for the sector. Indeed, the challenge for synthetic biology going forward will be to reduce an extensive list of prospective future actions to those that are most practicable and will have the highest impact. By our assessment of the issues and in applying a policy process lens, there are several tiers action items that emerge for the sector to address which are outlined in detail in the full report (et ici en français).

Additional details of the event proceedings are available separately in the Appendices.

About the authors

Jeff Kinder

Jeff Kinder

Executive Director - Science and Innovation

Jeff has almost 30 years of experience in government science and innovation policy in the US and Canada. His US experience includes the National Science Foundation, the National Academies and the Naval Research Laboratory.

In Canada, Jeff has worked at Industry Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the Council of Science and Technology Advisors. Most recently, he led the Federal Science and Technology Secretariat supporting the Minister of Science, the Deputy Minister Champion for Federal S&T and related initiatives.

Jeff is author of Government Science 2020: Re-thinking Public Science in a Networked Age and co-author with Bruce Doern of Strategic Science in the Public Interest: Canada’s Government Laboratories and Science-Based Agencies (U. Toronto Press, 2007). He is author and co-editor with Paul Dufour of a forthcoming volume on the history of the Science Council of Canada. He holds a PhD in public policy, a Master’s in science, technology and public policy, and a BS in physics.

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Mark Robbins

Mark Robbins

Senior Researcher

Mark's work principally addresses impact of the digital revolution on government, governance and public administration as well as how government itself impacts technological development through its actions for governing the ICT sector. Mark can be found working on a range of projects related to 21st century policy areas including digital transformation, innovation, digital government and artificial intelligence. When not writing research, Mark also organizes the IOG's Policy Crunch speaker series and annual Future Forum conference.

Prior to joining the IOG, he held various research positions on economic and political affairs, including at the Munk School at the University of Toronto, the Conference Board of Canada, UN-ESCAP, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Parliament of Canada. Mark holds a Bachelor of Social Science in Political Science from the University of Ottawa, an M.A. in Political Economy from Carleton University and a certificate in commerce from Mohawk College.

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