Ethical, Societal and Policy Aspects of Molecular Systems Engineering - NCCR MSE

Ethical, Societal and Policy Aspects of Molecular Systems Engineering

Scientific and ethical researchers join to identify ethical issues that involve all projects by debating them in an empirically well-informed and argumentatively sound way, and developing sound policy recommendations on how to deal with them.

Molecular Systems Engineering is a rapidly evolving field cutting across traditional disciplinary boundaries. The large extent to which technological aims and design strategies are applied to the biological systems results in an unprecedented level of interference with living nature and the human body.

The risks, benefits, uncertainties as well as novel ideas and paradigms related to this increased potential raise a large set of interesting ethical, societal and policy questions. Moreover, new technological developments resulting from projects involved might impact significantly on the daily lives of future generations and affect their view on the world.

The NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering opens and welcomes an interdisciplinary discussion of exciting and controversial philosophical issues that relate to all of its projects. This can include the meaning of concepts such as “nature”, “life”, “artificiality” or “design” and the relation of these concepts to human design at nanoscale and into the biological world, as well as the design and production of molecular machines and factories, the engineering of cellular functions, the construction of organic-inorganic hybrids and the use of directed evolution as a “designing aid”.

Another area of relevance is future applications with expected benefits and potential risks that may raise ethical and societal issues, e.g. diagnostic or therapeutic tools for medicine or applications towards the production of energy.

A bioethics training module tailored towards the needs of scientists will be developed and offered. Additionally, there are regular interaction and the exchange of experiences with the ethics and public relations office.


Project Leader

Nikola Biller-Andorno


Sebastian Wäscher