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What is Pseudomonas putida?
Pseudomonas putida is a very common bacterium living in many environments. With its ability to degrade carbon-based material it is attractive for biotechnological applications, e.g. to degrade toxins in soil.

What is Synthetic Biology?
Synthetic Biology is an emerging research field comprising the re-design of existing biological systems or the use of biological building blocks for the design and engineering of systems with new features.
[Definition based on “The International Council of the Life Sciences”: http://iclscharter.org/our-work/synthetic-biology/; the Synthetic Biology Community: http://syntheticbiology.org]

What are the challenges addressed by Synthetic Biology?
Following the SynBERC definition, “…synthetic biology is perhaps best defined by some of its hallmark characteristics: predictable, off-the-shelf parts and devices with standard connections, robust biological chassis (such as yeast and Escherichia coli) that readily accept those parts and devices, standards for assembling components into increasingly sophisticated and functional systems and open-source availability and development of parts, devices, and chassis."

Synthetic Biology allows the design and construction of new biological entities, devices, tools and systems. Examples exist already in the medical field e.g. tumor-seeking microbes for cancer treatment, approaches addressing the energy problem, e.g. by assembling photosynthetic systems to produce energy, or addressing the problem of waste e.g. by enabling bacteria to degrade plastic waste or toxins to decontaminate soil.
[Source: SynBERC “Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center”, http://wwwsynberc.org]

Which ethical issues apply to the research?
Synthetic Biology employs methods that include modification of the genetic makeup of mainly bacterial or other unicellular organisms. It needs a public debate on ethics in the biosciences which framework conditions our society will agree on for responsible research in this new technology field.

Are there any safety risks?
In Synthetic Biology, organisms are used as chassis e.g. for production of molecules and materials alternative to current processes. Organisms are self-replicating, and the potential risk of their escape might cause undesired consequences for the environment. Therefore, intensive research on novel mechanisms is currently under way to inhibit the survival of these organisms in the environment. A standards framework and Good Laboratory Practice is implemented for EmPowerPutida to ensure a safe and secure research environment.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020

research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 635536.

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