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Synthetic Biology in Cambridge


The guiding question of our research group will be the extent to which open technologies result in equitable sharing of knowledge and cognitive or technology justice. 'Open' IP describes a range of approaches to knowledge production, distribution and consumption that allow more or different actors to participate in producing and benefit from technologies. The global shift to knowledge-based economies and increasingly rapid pace of technological advancement means that the question of how society deals with intellectual property (IP) and structures institutions and communities to manage and disseminate knowledge is critically important to our future. Our choices will reflect and shape our societal values, practices and culture. Advocates of open and collaborative approaches point to evidence of real social impact from but there is little published evidence and any effects are heavily context dependent.

OpenIPWe are interested in emerging technologies such as synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and electric cars; new networked infrastructure such as distributed energy and new forms of manufacturing such as 3D-printing. Examples of open technologies are found within each of these sectors, situated along a spectrum from fully public domain to forming part of a managed commons. Our research group has a range of interests from biotechnologies and diagnostics; 'green' technology and sustainability transitions; governance of risk through to knowledge and technology transfer for international development. We will explore together the legal issues, economic implications and governance of open technologies across key sectors, asking how they are established, what motivates the IP owners and ultimately what impact this might have on societies. This will enable us to push the boundaries of our current knowledge and understanding, cross-fertilising between our respective fields and creating new interdisciplinary insights and novel research ideas.


Jenny Molloy (Coordinator, Synthetic Biology SRI and OpenPlant, Department of Plant Sciences)
Frank Tietze  (University Lecturer in Technology & Innovation Management, Institute for Manufacturing, Centre for Technology Management, Department of Engineering)
Laura James  (IdeaSpace and Institute for Manufacturing)
John Liddicoat  (Research Associate, Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law)
Catherine Rhodes  (Academic Project Manager, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, CRASSH)
Lalitha Sundaram  (Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk,

Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, CRASSH)
Lara Allen (Director, Global Challenges SRI; CEO, Centre for Global Equality)

Faculty Advisors

Professor Jim Haseloff  (Professor of Synthetic Biology, Plant Sciences)
Dr Rob Doubleday  (Centre for Science and Policy)



The Synthetic Biology Interdisciplinary Research Centre provides a hub for anyone interested in Synthetic Biology at the University of Cambridge, as well as commercial partners and external collaborators.

We promote interdisciplinary exchange in the field of synthetic biology through a regular event series and by funding projects at the intersection of biology, engineering, computing and design. Find out more about SynBio IRC events and opportunities below.


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