Biological Dual-Use Research and Synthetic Biology of Yeast
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In recent years, the publication of the studies on the transmissibility in mammals of the H5N1 influenza virus and synthetic genomes has triggered heated and concerned debate within the community of scientists on biological dual-use research; these papers have raised the awareness that, in some cases, fundamental research could be directed to harmful experiments, with the purpose of developing a weapon that could be used by a bioterrorist. Here is presented an overview regarding the dual-use concept and its related international agreements which underlines the work of the Australia Group (AG) Export Control Regime. It is hoped that the principles and activities of the AG, that focuses on export control of chemical and biological dual-use materials, will spread and become well known to academic researchers in different countries, as they exchange biological materials (i.e. plasmids, strains, antibodies, nucleic acids) and scientific papers. To this extent, and with the aim of drawing the attention of the scientific community that works with yeast to the so called Dual-Use Research of Concern, this article reports case studies on biological dual-use research and discusses a synthetic biology applied to the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, namely the construction of the first eukaryotic synthetic chromosome of yeast and the use of yeast cells as a factory to produce opiates. Since this organism is considered harmless and is not included in any list of biological agents, yeast researchers should take simple actions in the future to avoid the sharing of strains and advanced technology with suspicious individuals.
KeywordsSynthetic Biology Biological Weapon Export Control Chemical Weapon Convention Synthetic Genome
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