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National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech) 2010Based on the disciplines of biology, molecular biology, chemistry, biotechnology as well as information technology and engineering sciences, a new field of research is evolving, called synthetic biology. It has attracted special attention recently, also on an international basis. Synthetic biology can make an essential contribution to the gaining of knowledge in basic research. Beyond that, it opens up options for biotechnological applications in the medium term, i.e. in the area of new and improved diagnostic agents, vaccines and drugs as well as the development of new biosensors and biomaterials or even biofuels. Concurrently, the research area opens up new questions, e.g. about legal aspects in the context of biological safety or the protection from abuse; likewise, questions about the economic use and ethical aspects. Against this backdrop, the German Research Foundation (DFG), acatech, which is the German Academy for Science and Engineering, and the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina have pooled their strengths and crafted a joint statement on possible opportunities and risks of synthetic biology.