Towards a Better World - A pre-story of how to commercialize synthetic biology – University of Copenhagen

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15 December 2014

Towards a Better World - A pre-story of how to commercialize synthetic biology

Master defense

CBS students Zahra M. Al-Asfoor & Theis Simonsen will be defending their Master's thesis December 17th, 2014 on commercialization of synthetic biology focusing on the compound forskolin.

The thesis ‘Towards a better world – a pre-story of how to commercialize synthetic biology research’ is written for a general and popular audience, to help vanquish the current disjunction between science and the rest of the culture; to make it applicable in society; science is not only for scientists.

The global economy faces many severe threats; climate change, food and water scarcity, disease, lack of equity, challenges that for many years have gone unaddressed; the current way of running the global economy is not bringing the world on the right course. This recognition calls for new solutions. Synthetic biology, an emerging field that seeks to engineer new organisms for practical purposes, can pave the way. This thesis suggests that we ought to reconsider how we conduct business and implement business practices taking into account ethics, sustainability, the commons, and innovation. This study is thus specifically concerned with commercializing scientific knowledge within synthetic biology in order to generate sustainable innovation in society. We explore the various domains that the thesis consist of, to understand and present possible scenarios and explanations on how sustainable innovation can be achieved with synthetic biology knowledge to realize a better world condition, and within which economic constellation we will achieve the best results.
The study explores the specific case of semi-synthetic high-value compound, forskolin, and assess the practical bearings of mass-producing it. We propose three approaches, (1) the non-synthetic approach; using microorganism to stress the plant coleus forskohlii, (2) semi-synthetic production in yeast, and (3) semi-synthetic production on a light-driven platform. To drive sustainable innovation society, the study stresses that there is a need for establishing a firm that produces forskolin on sustainable and innovative grounds. It also proposes including students and unemployed in establishing the firms, as it would result in more progress and improvement of society and human condition. For this to get closer to reality, we suggest founding a fund on a cooperative basis.
The thesis uses an antenarrative style and experiments with a new synthesis of research philosophies and research methodologies. The main research philosophy is pragmatism. We have developed a fusion of different methodologies; the main one is Peirce’s scientific method, where we primarily find ourselves in the abductive inference, and supplement with the deductive inference. In addition, we use exploratory and descripto-explanatory research to investigate and explain the domains. All this takes place in a sweeping-in-process.

Supervisors: Associate professor, CBS Leif Block Rasmussen and Professor, KU Birger Lindberg Møller

Zahra M. Al-Asfoor
Theis Simonsen

Bachelor student from CBS have also been working with commercialization of synthetic biology