GenØk as a new member of the UN Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology


What is the AHTEG?
The Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group is a selected group of about 40 international experts that will produce technical and scientific documents containing relevant information about the regulation and safety of synthetic biology, including genome-editing organisms and products. The information will be gathered from the Synthetic Biology Online Forum discussions as well as from information submitted by Parties, other Governments, relevant organizations and indigenous peoples and local communities to the secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol and the relevant scientific literature.

Norway has two experts, Dr. Sarah Agapito from GenØk Centre for Biosafety and Dr. Casper Linnestad representing the Ministry of Climate and the Environment as Party.

Why synthetic biology?
Synthetic biology is a field of science and technology that still lacks an international agreed definition. In general, synthetic biology is perceived as the engineering or the re-engineering of biological components and systems in a novel way; a major development in genetic engineering and other biotechnological applications. Although it is a task that requires an intimate understanding of the biological process that is to be engineered, many products are already reaching commercial stages.

The classic example of synthetic biology is synthetic nucleases for genome-editing. CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)/Cas (CRISPR-associated) is the most popular system these days due to its easy design. The potential applications of synthetic nucleases go well beyond simply creating mutations. These tools will find uses in various kinds of more comprehensive in vivogenome modifications (or even the construction of artificial genomes). Genome-editing techniques differ from those of classical genetic engineering because of their ability to (1) modify target genes in vivo, and not only in vitrofollowed by re- introduction; (2) increase the efficiency of introducing the intended modification at an intended place; and (3) increase the range of organisms in which the first two possibilities can be achieved.

The Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartagena Protocol have been the two international bodies in which the regulation and safety of genome-editing has taken place, thus driving domestic legislation in many countries, including the EU.

For more information about the mandate of the AHTEG and its members, please visit:
For more information about GenØk’s work on synthetic biology and genome editing, please visit:;