Emerging Technologies

Keystone incorporates diverse societal perspectives into discussion of responsible governance of emerging technologies. Our recent work includes:

  • Supporting non-governmental organizations in their development of and cross-sector collaboration on governance principles for gene editing in food, agriculture and the environment.

  • Connecting societal considerations to applications of genetic innovation for climate change.

  • Identifying key issues and trends in intellectual property and public trust regarding gene editing and agriculture.

  • Connecting stakeholders and researchers on the use of synthetic biology, gene editing and gene drive technologies for conservation and in environmental settings.

  • Identifying areas for collaboration across health, agriculture and conservation on gene editing governance and on One Health approaches.

Featured Projects

CRISPRcon: Conversations on Science, Society, and the Future of Gene Editing

In CRISPR and other gene-editing technologies, the scientific community has handed the world a powerful tool: The ability to make precise edits to the DNA in living cells. These technologies could transform our food, health, and ecological systems. They also raise important questions about risks, benefits, ethics, equity, and more.

Together with key partners in the scientific community, Keystone has brought together leading voices from diverse sectors to discuss the future of gene editing technologies across a variety of applications. Learn more

NGO Gene Editing Roundtable

The NGO Gene Editing Roundtable is an informal network of U.S.-based food-, agriculture-, and/or conservation-focused NGOs concerned with the responsible governance gene editing and other biotechnologies recognizes the potential societal benefits of gene editing technologies, while acknowledging their potential risks. The roundtable provides a forum for peer-to-peer engagement on gene editing policy and science to enhance organizational knowledge and capacity as well as identify and advance shared interests. Learn more

IUCN Syn Bio Task Force

Synthetic biology (SynBio) is an emerging technology with the potential for significant positive impacts and various applications in industry, agriculture, conservation, energy, medicine, preparedness, and public health. SynBio also raises important questions and concerns related to bioethics, social acceptance, ecological impacts, and health and safety. Addressing these issues and establishing appropriate expectations and frameworks for the use of SynBio requires a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach. Such approaches should proactively consider key opportunities and risks associated with specific applications of the technology.

The Innovative Genomics Institute

The Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) hosted an online two-day workshop of international stakeholders to inform IGI’s agenda for genomic innovation to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. The workshop convened approximately 70 stakeholders from the public, private, and governmental sectors with knowledge in genomics, climate change, agriculture, natural resources, biomanufacturing, conservation, social sciences, Indigenous rights, environmental justice, economics, public policy, and other subject areas. The Keystone Policy Center provided third party facilitation services, and assisted IGI throughout the organization of the workshop and agenda. Each session covered a different topic related to climate change adaptation and mitigation, although many themes carried over between sessions.

Exploring Stakeholder Perspectives on the Development of a Gene Drive Mouse for Biodiversity Protection on Islands

Gene drives — mechanisms for biased inheritance —have implications for a wide range of fields, including public health, ecology, national security, and more. Potential applications of these genetically engineered drives include eradicating mosquitoes to address the spread of human and avian malaria and eliminating invasive rodents on islands. Communities, stakeholders, and the broader public will likely be following their development, whether with enthusiasm, opposition, concerned scrutiny, or a combination of all of the above. Keystone worked in partnership with North Carolina State University and Arizona State University to incorporate stakeholder input into gene drive research exploring the feasibility and suitability of the use of gene drives for control of invasive rodents, which threaten island ecologies and biodiversity

Stakeholder Engagement Practices to Inform the Development of Area-wide Vector Control Methods

Recent technological developments in the field of vector control (for example, those relating to novel gene drive techniques) have led to significant interest in effective stakeholder engagement for area-wide vector control interventions. Unique considerations apply because these approaches may not offer individuals the chance to ‘opt out,’ as would be possible during the testing of other medical interventions (e.g. vaccine field trials). Through a series of online consultations and a workshop, Keystone served as part of a multi-disciplinary team of experts and practitioners contributing to a paper on guidance on stakeholder engagement practices to inform the development of area-wide vector control methods.

Public Debate and the Future of Genome Editing in Human Reproduction

Keystone co-organized a symposium at the University of California, Berkeley examining the incorporation of public perspectives into the governance of heritable changes to human DNA. The event was called CRISPR Consensus and it featured scientists, ethicists, religious leaders, advocates, policymakers, and more. It was co-organized and sponsored by the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) at UC Berkeley, and the Initiative on Science, Technology and Human Identity at Arizona State University, with generous support from the John Templeton Foundation. Keystone partnered in the design of the event and also moderated a session at the symposium that explored examples of platforms and pathways for public engagement and debate.

Control and Access: Intellectual Property and CRISPR-Cas Gene Editing for Innovation in Crop Agriculture

Keystone served on the advisory board and as site host for a conference organized by Colorado State University that explored issues of ownership and access for new gene edited crops. As new gene-edited crops are beginning to emerge from the lab and start moving toward commercial application, what will the complex and evolving legal landscape look like, what are the concerns of stakeholders regarding control and access, and what are the implications of new ownership and licensing frameworks for benefits and risks of using CRISPR in a wide range of innovations for sustainable agriculture? Info from the conference is available here.

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