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The 13-member Presidential Commission for the Study of Biological Issues, chaired by Penn President Amy Gutmann, will convene for its first public meeting in Washington on July 8-9.

The commission’s first order of business will be a study of a milestone in synthetic biology — the replacement of natural genetic material in a bacterial cell with synthetic genes, according to a letter from US President Barack Obama to Gutmann.

“This development raises the prospect of important benefits, such as the ability to accelerate vaccine development,” Obama wrote. “At the same time, it raises genuine concerns, and so we must consider fully the implications of this research."

The Commission was asked to complete a report of findings and recommendations within six months, the letter said.

“The creation of a synthetic genome raises complex and challenging ethical and policy-related questions,” Gutmann said in a statement.

“We will provide the President with evidence-based, ethically responsible guidance,” she continued.

Among other appointees to the Commission include University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Anita L. Allen.

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