JDR Vol.6 No.5 pp. 476-481
doi: 10.20965/jdr.2011.p0476


Current Situation of Synthetic Biology in Japan

Yusuke Mori* and Go Yoshizawa**

*Life Sciences Division, Research Promotion Bureau, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan, 3-2-2 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-8959, Japan

**Policy Alternatives Research Institute, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan

April 1, 2011
September 7, 2011
October 1, 2011
synthetic biology, technology assessment, biosafety, biosecurity, bioethics
Studies on synthetic biology have been promoted in many countries to find a solution to the proposition “what is life?”; this is done not by analytical but by constructive methods, or to create the systems of living organisms for human use. Synthetic biology is supposed to be a useful tool for solving various problems that humans have; however, it could lead to many ethical challenges, particularly problems in terms of disaster prevention, such as the question whether the artificial creation of life is right or wrong and concerns about the creation of organisms that may be harmful for humans and the environment. This paper summarizes the social and scientific trends in the field of synthetic biology, especially in Japan, for clarifying the related social problems and bringing these problems to the attention of the stakeholders and public.
Cite this article as:
Y. Mori and G. Yoshizawa, “Current Situation of Synthetic Biology in Japan,” J. Disaster Res., Vol.6 No.5, pp. 476-481, 2011.
Data files:
  1. [1] D. Sprinzak andM. B. Elowitz, “Reconstruction of genetic circuits,” Nature, Vol.438, pp. 443-448, 2005.
  2. [2] M.Hagiya, “DNAnanotechnology,” (in Japanese),
    available at 4.html [accessed: Jul. 30, 2010]
  3. [3] The BioBricks Foundation,
    available at; http:// [accessed: Sep. 25, 2010]
  4. [4] H. de Vriend, “Constructing Life: Early Social Reflections on the Emerging Field of Synthetic Biology,” The Hague, The Netherlands, Rathenau Institute, 2006.
  5. [5] D. Endy, “Foundations for engineering biology,” Nature, Vol.438, pp. 449-453, 2005.
  6. [6] Royal Academy of Engineering, “Synthetic Biology: Scope, Applications and Implications,” 2009.
  7. [7] National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), “Addressing Biosecurity Concerns Related to Synthetic Biology,” April 2010; Royal Society, “New Approaches to Biological Risk Assessment,” 2009.
  8. [8] T. M. Tumpey et al., “Characterization of the reconstructed 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic virus,” Science, Vol.310, pp. 77-80, 2005.
  9. [9] J. Cello, A. V. Paul, and E. Wimmer, “Chemical synthesis of poliovirus cDNA: generation of infectious virus in the absence of natural template,” Science, Vol.297, pp. 1016-1018, 2002.
  10. [10] J. B. Tucker and R. A. Zilinskas, “The promise and perils of synthetic biology,” New Atlantis, Vol.12, pp. 25-45, 2006.
  11. [11] M. S. Garfinkel, D. Endy, G. L. Epstein, and R. M. Friedman, “Synthetic Genomics: Options for Governance,” Rockville, MD, J. Craig Venter Institute, 2007.
  12. [12] International Gene Synthesis Consortium, “The IASB code of conduct for best practices in gene synthesis,” 2009,
    available at [accessed: Jul. 30, 2010]
  13. [13] H. van den Belt, “Playing God in Frankenstein’s footsteps: Synthetic biology and the meaning of life,” Nanoethics, Vol.3, pp. 257-268, 2009.
  14. [14] S.Yearley, “The ethical landscape: identifying the right way to think about the ethical and social aspects of synthetic biology research and products,” J. R. Soc. Interface, Vol.6, pp. S559-564, 2009.
  15. [15] H. Iwasaki, “Biomedia art: aesthetic possibility of synthetic biology,” Kagaku, Vol. 80, pp. 747-745, 2010 (in Japanese).
  16. [16] Synthetics Aesthetics,
    available at [accessed: Jul. 30, 2010]
  17. [17] International Risk Governance Council, “Risk Governance of Synthetic Biology,” 2009.
  18. [18] S. M. Maurer, K. V. Lucas, and S. Terrell, “From understanding to action: community-based options for improving safety and security in synthetic biology,” Univ. California, Berkeley, 2006,
    available at resolutions.html [accessed: May 10, 2010]
  19. [19] Open letter from Social movements and other civil society organizations to the Synthetic biology 2.0 conference May 20-22, 2006, Berkeley, California concerning the “community-wide” vote on biosecurity and biosafety resolutions, 2006, available at [accessed: May 10, 2010]
  20. [20] Hart Research Associates, “Awareness & Impressions of Synthetic Biology: A Report of Findings,” Sept. 9, 2010,
    available at [accessed: Jul. 30, 2010]
  21. [21] SynBERC, available at [accessed: May 10, 2010]
  22. [22] Synbiosafe, available at [accessed: May 10, 2010]
  23. [23] A. Balmer and P.Martin, “BBSRC, Synthetic Biology: Social and Ethical Challenges,” 2008,
    available at [accessed: Jul. 30, 2010]
  24. [24] Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, “New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies,” AFP, Dec.16, 2010.
  25. [25] Biosintetica, “Strategic Guidelines for Synthetic Biology Industries in Developing Countries,” Dec. 2010,
    available at [accessed: Feb. 14, 2011]
  26. [26] Y. Mori and G. Yoshizawa, “Current situation on synthetic biology and its social issues: What is synthetic biology in Japan?” Technology Assessment Note, Vol.7, pp. 1-20, 2011 (in Japanese).
  27. [27] H. Mori, Personal communication, Mar. 12, 2011.
  28. [28] Center for Research and Development Strategy, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST CRDS), “Benchmarking report on Synthetic Biology,” 09GR02, Mar. 2010 (in Japanese).
  29. [29] iGEM, available at [accessed: Jul. 30, 2010]
  30. [30] GenoCon, available at [accessed: Jan. 25, 2011]
  31. [31] “The charter of Japanese Society for Cell Synthesis Research,” Nov.26, 2007,
    available at [accessed:Jul. 30, 2010]
  32. [32] Workshop: Technology Assessment for Synthetic Biology, Japan-Netherlands, Netherlands Embassy Tokyo, 2010.
  33. [33] iGEM Japan humanpractice project, 2010,
    available at [accessed: Jan. 25, 2011]
  34. [34] JST CRDS, “Overviewing report on Life Science,” 06WR17, Mar. 2007 (in Japanese).
  35. [35] JST CRDS, “Overviewing report on Life Science,” 08WR14, Mar. 2009 (in Japanese); JST CRDS, “Synthetic Biology for Science and Engineering,” 08SP14, Mar. 2009 (in Japanese).
  36. [36] “Law Concerning the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity through Regulations on the Use of Living Modified Organisms,” (Law No. 97 of 2003); The Ministerial Ordinance Providing Containment Measures to Be Taken in Type 2 Use of Living Modified Organisms for Research and Development (Ministerial Ordinance No.1 of 2004 of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and Ministry of the Environment) (in Japanese).
  37. [37] International Risk Governance Council, “Risk Governance of Synthetic Biology,” 2009.
  38. [38] Royal Academy of Engineering, “Synthetic Biology: Scope, Applications and Implications,” 2009.
  39. [39] E. Parens, J. Johnston, and J. Moses, “Ethical Issues in Synthetic Biology: An Overview of Debate,” Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars., 2009.
  40. [40] J. Calvert and P. Martin, “The role of social scientists in synthetic biology,” EMBO Reports, Vol.10, pp. 201-204, 2009.

*This site is desgined based on HTML5 and CSS3 for modern browsers, e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera.

Last updated on Jul. 12, 2024