Synthetic Biology (SynBio)
"Synthetic biology" is defined as the design and construction of new biological functions and systems not found in nature.
As with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on Earth, there is strong resistance to synthetic biology as well, including some very good reasons, generally categorized as biosafety and biosecurity.
As usual, there are many scientists and public proponents of synthetic biology, hoping for benefits to themselves. Unfortunately, many people tend to focus on the benefits and rationalize away the risks.
However, in outer space, these experiments can be isolated so there is practically no chance of the results affecting Earth's biosphere. Indeed, since it is not feasible to regulate laboratories all over the planet, if we could move a lot of this work to outer space, then we would be eliminating the effects of these experiments on Earth's natural environment.
NASA Synthetic Biology Program
NASA has started research in this field for various potential purposes, including manufacturing food more efficiently in space, trash/waste processing, and producing products from lunar and asteroidal raw materials, such as producing hydrocarbon fuels, extracting metals, and other things.
More information can be found at syntheticbiology.arc.nasa.gov which is very small as of 2012.
An oft-cited reference is a 2010 workshop entitled What are the Potential Roles for Synthetic Biology in NASA’s Mission?
Singularity University's Synthetic Biology Program
In February 2012, the Singularity University announced the SynBio Startup Launchpad, noting "Get ready for a paradigm shift in biotechnology! Not too long ago, it took millions of dollars and years of development to start a new technology business. But not anymore, as many tech startups get up and running in weeks for under $20K. Biotechnology is poised to follow this trend powered by synthetic biology – genetic engineering done with software-based design tools coupled with low-cost DNA synthesis and assembly. Using synthetic biology, undergraduate students are developing everything from DNA data storage systems to new ... gene therapies in just months ..."
The Singularity University's website quotes the founder of 3Com corporation, Bob Metcalfe, as saying "Be prepared to learn how the growth of exponential and disruptive technologies will impact your industry, your company, your career, and your life." This applies to life in general in Earth's biosphere.
These "disruptive" technologies should be developed far out into space, not in Earth's biosphere. However, countless curious people will dream about all the benefits and money they will make, while rationalizing away the risks.