Molecular synthetic ‘factories’ with the complexity of a cell, 100,000 times smaller than a hair, sufficiently strong and precisely programmed to revolutionize diagnostic tools and therapeutic options: this is what the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Molecular Systems Engineering is concerned with.
Without question, wide-reaching, lifestyle-changing incisions of this type, and the paradigm change they would invoke, require the consent of a society that has been sufficiently informed through a prior interactive, ethically conducted debate. Latest studies (Allensbach/Leopoldina 2015) show, however, that a large majority of the population is neither familiar with the terminology nor with the subject matter of Synthetic Biology, which along with other disciplines such as chemistry and physics plays an important role in this NCCR. But how can a discussion be conducted if science on the one hand, and the non-scientific, interested general public on the other, do not speak the same language? A serious ethical debate can only take place if (absolutely) all interested parties are in the position to participate. Ways now have to be found to bridge the communication gap and make this possible. One solution is to use the mutual language of art.
With "Art of Molecule", Ethics for this NCCR provides a communications module by means of which an important group of society – artists and those interested in the arts - can question, analyze, criticize, interpret and ultimately help to shape, the development of molecular factories. At present, the NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering is both actively seeking specific collaborations with artists from all creative fields and open to collaboration requests. The first collaborations with, for example, students of the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) and with argovia philharmonic, are already taking place now and demonstrate the enormous potential of this exchange.