The Synthetic Yeast Project as a Topic for Social Scientific Investigation

Jane Calvert, Emma Frow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The synthetic yeast project (Sc2.0) is a visible example of the recent rise in
prominence of eukaryotic synthetic biology. Drawing on an analysis of news
stories, scientific papers, and our involvement with the scientific community,
we describe the synthetic yeast project and some of its precursors, and we
identify the technical, social and conceptual issues that we find particularly
salient as researchers in Science and Technology Studies. We discuss the
‘design principles’ that are central to the project, and how these align Sc2.0
with the mainstream engineering agenda in synthetic biology. We identify
the project’s preference for openness regarding intellectual property, and
compare this to ownership approaches in other branches of synthetic
biology. We also argue that a study of yeast encourages us to consider more
explicitly the spatial and temporal dimensions of the organisms used in
synthetic biology. We conclude that social scientific investigation into the
synthetic yeast project raises important questions that will help us better
understand the movement of synthetic biology into more complex organisms
and systems, and assist us in further exploring the tensions between
engineering and biology that are central to this emerging field.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)27-37
Number of pages10
JournalMacquarie Law Journal
Issue number2015
Early online date11 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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