Synthetic Biology

pp 101-119


Security Issues Related to Synthetic Biology

Between Threat Perceptions and Governance Options
  • Alexander KelleAffiliated withDepartment of European Studies and Modern Languages, University of BathOrganisation for International Dialogue and Conflict Management (IDC), Biosafety Working Group Email author 

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Given the historical pattern of misuse of advances in the life sciences, the biosecurity implications of synthetic biology deserve close attention. This requires in the first instance a clear understanding of the differences between traditional biosafety concerns and potential biosecurity threats. After discussing the meaning attached to these terms, the paper moves on to analyse the biosecurity awareness of synthetic biologists in Europe in relation to several of the key events in the evolving biosecurity discourse. Following the analysis of interview results that reveal a low to medium level of biosecurity awareness on the part of European synthetic biologists, biosecurity governance mechanisms are evaluated that have been proposed up to now. These put either a heavy emphasis on self-governance by the synthetic biology community, or focus on technical solutions to address biosecurity risks. Expanding on these proposals the chapter outlines a new 5P-strategy for synthetic biology biosecurity governance which revolves around a set of measures being identified that could be brought to bear at the identified five policy intervention points.