Ethical questions on Synthetic Biology and the Boundaries of Control

Ethical questions on Synthetic Biology and the Boundaries of Control

THE VON WRIGHT AND WITTGENSTEIN RESEARCH SEM­INAR: Emergence, complexity, control on the edge of life. The seminar will explore emerging ethical questions surrounding the impact, consequences, threats and opportunities of synthetic biology in mitigating some of the major challenges facing mankind.

Chair: Professor Thomas Wallgren, University of Helsinki


  1. Merja Penttilä, Professor, Aalto University, VTT: What is Synthetic Biology and the mitigation of the climate crisis.
  2. Heikki Saxén, University of Tampere and The Finnish Bioethics Institute
  3. Kate Adamala, Professor, University of Minnesota, The Build a Cell -Consortium
  4. Tero Ijäs, University of Helsinki & TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science
  5. Discussion

The von Wright and Wittgenstein Research Sem­inar, University of Helsinki, Aalto University, and The Centre for Young Synbio Scientist organize a cross-disciplinary seminar on the potential and the boundaries of synthetic biology in the context of ethics and control. The new genome-editing technologies have boosted an unprecedented development of engineering of biology where living organisms can be manipulated to predictable outcomes. The technologies can be used for producing materials, chemicals, medicines, food and energy, engineered crops, and apply to humans to cure diseases.

However, as some of the fundamental building blocks of life are still unknown to science, the question of ethics and responsible utilization of these technologies remain essential. Where lies the boundaries of ethics when manipulating life itself. Can we truly control the complexity of nature and biology? What are the potential threats and opportunities that these new technologies offer? How does life emerge and are we close to solving the mystery? The panelists will present and discuss new advances in synthetic biology and explore the emerging philosophical questions.