The ethics of synthetic biology research and development: a principlist approach

Kevin Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    33 Downloads (Pure)


    A principlist approach is adopted to analyse the ethical status of synthetic biology (synbio) research and development. The principle of nonmaleficence generates precaution-driven conclusions that are excessively restrictive to the field of synbio. The principle of beneficence is best served by permitting synbio research to flourish and not have it treated as a special case warranting the imposition of a high degree of external and self-regulation. Synbio may offend the principle of justice in certain circumstances; however, such issues are largely restricted to the initial stages of synbio innovation, whilst in the longer term the development of the field can be expected to promote just ends. The principle of respect for autonomy entails that scientists ought to be afforded a broad scope to freely pursue synbio research and development in a curiosity-driven fashion. In balancing the various conclusions under the four principles, the author concludes that society has an ethical obligation to support the development of synbio research and development and not restrict this important nascent field by the imposition of stern regulation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAdvances in synthetic biology
    EditorsVijai Singh
    Place of PublicationSingapore
    Number of pages13
    ISBN (Electronic)9789811500817
    ISBN (Print)9789811500800
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2020


    • Autonomy
    • Beneficence
    • Bioethics
    • Justice
    • Nonmaleicence
    • Principlism
    • Synthetic biology


    Dive into the research topics of 'The ethics of synthetic biology research and development: a principlist approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this