Standards are the basis of technology and enable a common language that is required to achieve rigorous descriptions and exact measurements of properties. Although synthetic biology requires the use of standards (as the engineering discipline that it is), the scientific community is very reluctant to accepting them. Standards must comply with several properties, like being reliable, robust or affordable, but most importantly, standards must arise from agreements and consensus between the users. And, why are the users so reluctant to reaching this consensus? On one hand, the – incorrect – assumption that standards limit flexibility, and on the other hand, the ratio “costs of adoption versus added value”. Furthermore, although several SynBio standards have already been developed, others depend on the resolution of core scientific and technological gaps before being able to describe the systems with an unequivocal language.

The main goal of the BioRoboost Project is to foster international discussions on SynBio standards among key actors of SynBio from Europe, North America and Asia. These discussions aim to identify key challenges (technical, regulatory and societal) for the development and adoption of standards, and identifying the relevant stakeholders in the different fields (academia, industry, research centers and politics). In line with this goal, an International Workshop took place in Madrid in June 2019, gathering together all international partners of the BioRoboost consortia. Many interesting and enlightening discussions took place during this meeting, including challenges of biological standardisation, internationalization of standards, synbio chassis, or standards in biosafety and biosecurity, and all these discussions inspired the paper “The long journey towards standards for engineering Biosystems”, recently published in EMBO Reports.

Check out the full Science & Society article available online (open access).

Authors: Jacob Beal (USA), Angel Goñi‐Moreno (Newcastle), Chris Myers (USA), Ariel Hecht (USA), María del Carmen de Vicente (Belgium), Maria Parco (Italy), Markus Schmidt (Austria), Kenneth Timmis (Germany), Geoff Baldwin (United Kingdom), Steffi Friedrichs (Belgium), Paul Freemont (United Kingdom), Daisuke Kiga (Japan), Elena Ordozgoiti (Spain), Maja Rennig (Denmark), Leonardo Rios (United Kingdom), Kristie Tanner (Spain), Víctor de Lorenzo (Spain), and Manuel Porcar (Spain).