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PUBLICATION NOTICE: Synthetic Biology: Research Needs for Assessing Environmental Impacts

US Army Engineer Research and Development Center
Published Aug. 9, 2019

The US Army Engineer Research and Development Center has published the report/note described and linked below. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.

Report Number:

ERDC/EL TR-19-10


Synthetic Biology: Research Needs for Assessing Environmental Impacts 


Christopher M. Warner, Sarah R. Carter, Richard F. Lance, Fiona H. Crocker, Heather N. Meeks, Bryn L. Adams, Matthew L. Magnuson, Edward J. Perkins, Taylor E. Rycroft, and Kaytee L. Pokrzywinski


Synthetic biology and its applications have the potential to greatly improve economic development, public health, environmental stewardship, technological advancement, and many other areas. In May 2017, sixty individuals gathered in Lexington, Massachusetts for a workshop sponsored by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) to discuss applications of synthetic biology with likely or intended interaction with the environment. Representatives from academia, government agencies, industry, and non-governmental organizations convened to identify knowledge gaps and research needs to assess potential environmental impacts from these technologies. The group discussed challenges in environmental risk assessment, regulation, and community engagement for emerging synthetic biology technologies. The workshop was structured around four hypothetical case studies, including the use of gene drive engineered organisms to control infectious disease vectors, engineered microbes for bioremediation, cell-free applications for advanced chemical production, and engineered viruses for water treatment. Meeting these research needs will facilitate appropriate environmental risk assessment and informed decision making for the development and potential deployment of synthetic biology organisms and components in the environment.

63 pgs / 1.4 mb


ERDC is a diverse research organization with approximately 2,000 employees operating more than $1 billion in world class facilities at seven laboratories. Its annual program exceeds $1 billion as it supports the Department of Defense and other agencies in military and civilian projects. Principal research areas include Soldier support, Engineered Resilient Systems, Environmental Quality and Installations, Geospatial Research and Engineering, Military Engineering, and Water Resources.  “Discover ▪ Develop ▪ Deliver”

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