About this Course
4.7
14 ratings
6 reviews
Synbio is a diverse field with diverse applications, and the different contexts (e.g., gain-of-function research, biofuels) raise different ethical and governance challenges. The objective of this course is to increase learners’ awareness and understanding of ethical and policy/governance issues that arise in the design, conduct and application of synthetic biology. The course will begin with a short history of recombinant DNA technology and how governance of that science developed and evolved, and progress through a series of areas of application of synbio. Content will be presented in many forms, including not only reading and lectures, but also recorded and live interviews and discussions with scientists, ethicists and policy makers. Learners will have the opportunity to think, write and talk about the issues and challenges in their own work and in real-life case examples. A final project will engage students in the development of governance models for synbio....
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Intermediate Level

Intermediate Level

Clock

Approx. 17 hours to complete

Suggested: 6 weeks of study, 2-4 hours/week...
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English

Subtitles: English...
Globe

100% online courses

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Calendar

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.
Intermediate Level

Intermediate Level

Clock

Approx. 17 hours to complete

Suggested: 6 weeks of study, 2-4 hours/week...
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English...

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

Week
1
Clock
18 minutes to complete

Welcome to Engineering Life: SynBio, Bioethics & Public Policy

...
Reading
1 video (Total 3 min), 1 reading
Video1 video
Reading1 reading
Syllabus: Engineering Life10m
Clock
2 hours to complete

Recombinant DNA Technology: Science and History

We start the course by learning a bit about the history and context of the development of recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology in the 1970s, the ethics and policy issues raised by that science, and how those issues remain with us today in synthetic biology. The work of the week includes lecture videos, readings, and an interview with LeRoy Walters, who was involved in the discussions and debates about rDNA in its early years. The week will conclude with a quiz....
Reading
8 videos (Total 105 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video8 videos
A Brief History of rDNA15m
A Brief History of Asilomar & the RAC19m
Interview: Dr. LeRoy Walters (Part 1)19m
Interview: Dr. LeRoy Walters (Part 2)21m
Interview: Dr. LeRoy Walters (Part 3)12m
Relevant Contemporary Policy Context5m
The Emergence of SynBio9m
Reading1 reading
Week 1 Readings10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Week 1 Quiz30m
Week
2
Clock
3 hours to complete

GOF Research

In Week 2 we will learn about and discuss gain of function (GOF) research and the dual-use concerns raised by synthetic biology. The work of the week includes lecture videos, a number of outside videos, and readings. The assessment this week will be your first peer-assessed project, and will focus on identifying ethical duties related to GOF research policy....
Reading
6 videos (Total 49 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video6 videos
Gain of Function Research5m
Dual Use Research9m
GOF Research Case Study: H5N112m
Ethical Issues Raised by GOF Research11m
Governance and GOF Research9m
Reading2 readings
Week 2 Readings10m
Additional Video Content10m
Week
3
Clock
2 hours to complete

Biofuels

This week, we’ll learn about biofuels, the complex task of balancing the many ethical issues they raise, and the role of synthetic biology in biofuels development. The work of the week includes lecture videos, one outside video, readings, and an interview with Deborah Scott about biofuels governance. The week will conclude with a quiz....
Reading
7 videos (Total 69 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video7 videos
Biofuels9m
Applications5m
Case Study4m
Ethical Issues Raised by SynBio-based Biofuels8m
Interview: Deborah Scott, PhD, JD (Part 1)24m
Interview: Deborah Scott, PhD, JD (Part 2)14m
Reading2 readings
Week 3 Readings10m
Additional Video Content10m
Quiz1 practice exercise
Week 3 Quiz30m
Week
4
Clock
3 hours to complete

Human Health

This week we will learn a bit about applications of synthetic biology to human health, and the ethics of human subjects research. The work of the week includes lecture videos, one outside video, and readings. The assessment this week will be your second peer-assessed project, and will build on your first project, from Week 2. This project will focus on identifying stakeholders in a policy decision, their interests in the decision, and the related ethical duties of the decision-maker....
Reading
7 videos (Total 50 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video7 videos
Synbio in Human Health5m
Human Genetic Modification6m
Case Study: Artemisinin6m
Case Study: GM Mosquitos8m
Ethical Issues Raised by SynBio-based Medical Applications13m
Governance of SynBio-based Medical Applications7m
Reading2 readings
Week 4 Readings10m
Additional Video Content10m
4.7

Top Reviews

By JQJul 28th 2017

fun and interesting course. very well taught by somebody obviously knowledgeable. Thanks so much.

By TNJun 16th 2017

Highly thought-provoking. One of the most interesting classes I have taken on Coursera.

Instructor

Debra JH Mathews, PhD, MA

Assistant Director for Science Programs
Berman Institute of Bioethics

About Johns Hopkins University

The mission of The Johns Hopkins University is to educate its students and cultivate their capacity for life-long learning, to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world....

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • When you purchase a Certificate you get access to all course materials, including graded assignments. Upon completing the course, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

  • The primary goal of this class is to help scientists think a bit more like policy makers and the public, seeing not only the incredible promise of the science they do, but also the potential risks and pitfalls, so these can be avoided or designed against at the beginning of a project, rather than at the end, when the challenges and costs are higher. Working with scholars, policy makers, and fellow learners, students will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the ethics and governance of synthetic biology.

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