Purpose: Synthetic Biology (SynBio) offers great promise in providing the Army new technologies for solving material, sensing, and human performance oriented challenges. Army use of these technologies requires a full understanding of products’ effects and potential environmental impacts. However, much uncertainty exists as how these biological technologies will impact the environment when used or released accidently. For example, what is the likelihood that escaped synthetic organisms could survive in the environment and ultimately outcompete native organisms? Currently no tools or guidance exist to support decisions on the use of synthetic biology, especially in the environment.  The goal of this project is to develop models and protocols for quantifying the potential environmental impacts of SynBio technologies, and development of a scientifically defensible framework to support decision-making procedures for the fielding of products derived from SynBio or tools and processes that incorporate SynBio.

This applied 6.2/6.3 research effort will focus on identifying the most relevant metrics needed to characterize environmental impacts and quantify their relative importance.
• DoD and Federal partner assessment of knowledge gaps and research priorities to ensure SynBio safety in the environment
• Guidance documents and SOPs for assessing the environmental impact of SynBio
• Qualitative and quantitative methods for measuring environmental impact
• Models to predict impact of SynBio technology releases in environment.
• A website that will serve as a centralized data repository for customers and other stakeholders in SynBio.
• An Environmental Assessment Framework to support decision making process
• ASTM standard methods for quantifying the potential impact of SynBio on the environment

Payoff: This project will provide essential guidance on how to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of SynBio for the USACE/Army/DoD. This will support transition of Syn Bio technology into the field. This work will position ERDC as a leader in assessing potential impacts of SynBio in the environment, and will develop the scientific understanding necessary to guide and inform environmental assessment, policies, and regulations so that the Army can make science based decisions on deployment of SynBio technologies.