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A new report released Thursday from the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, chaired by Penn President Amy Gutmann, is calling for more transparency and oversight of synthetic biology research.

The first report from the Commission, entitled "New Directions: The Ethics of Synthetic Biology and Emerging Technologies," recommended better supervision of scientists in order to promote innovation and monitor risk in the emerging field.

"We comprehensively reviewed the developing field of synthetic biology to understand both its potential rewards and risks," Gutmann said in a press release. After reviewing possible courses of action, she said the Commission chose a "middle ground" to regulate synthetic biology.

The Commission encouraged the coordination of federal agencies that oversee the field and human health, ethical training of scientists, and cross-governmental assessment of new synthetic biology technologies.

The Commission also proposed the creation of a website similar to about the field of bioethics as a means to increase dialogue about synthetic biology between government members, scientists, the media and the public.

Arthur Caplan, director for the Penn Center for Bioethics and professor of Medical Ethics, praised Gutmann’s contribution to the project and said it reflected her commitment to engaging in practical policy.

Caplan added that the report’s tone and style differed from the Bush Administration’s council, which tended to be "more theoretical and abstract."

He said that the topic should be revisited within the next few years to reassess the state of the field and policy. Commenting on the generation of policy, "I don’t think it’s too soon to start talking about what these regulations might look like," Caplan said.

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