Synthetic Biology: Biosecurity and Biosafety Implications
- 414 Downloads
Synthetic biology and other advanced biotechnologies hold a great deal of promise for medicine, public health, manufacturing, and national economies, but they also have biosafety and biosecurity implications. Using synthetic biology techniques, it is possible for a nefarious actor to acquire a viral pathogen made with chemically synthesized pieces, versus having to acquire samples of pathogens from an environmental source or from another laboratory. It is also possible to test many parallel approaches for designing new functions into existing pathogens, given that the costs of DNA synthesis continue to drop; this has dual-use implications for biodefense. These biosecurity concerns do not replace the existent challenges prior to the advent of synthetic biology but add to them, as early non-synthetic biology paths to biological weapons development are still able to be used to make biological weapons. In addition to biosecurity concerns, there are biosafety implications of synthetic biology, as the techniques are powerful, they may be used outside of traditional biocontainment, and because relative newcomers to biological containment are entering the field.
KeywordsSynthetic biology Biosafety Dual-use research of concern Biosecurity
- 1.Synthetic Biology Project. What is synthetic biology? Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Accessed 31 Jan 2018.Google Scholar
- 3.Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001, §Sec. 817. Expansion of the biological weapons statute. 2001.Google Scholar
- 4.Federal Select Agent Program. Select agents and toxins list. 2017. http://www.selectagents.gov/SelectAgentsandToxinsList.html. Accessed 31 Jan 2018.
- 5.The Australia Group. Common control lists. 2017. http://www.australiagroup.net/en/controllists.html. Accessed 16 July 2017.
- 8.Wimmer E. The test-tube synthesis of a chemical called poliovirus. The simple synthesis of a virus has far-reaching societal implications. EMBO Rep. 2006;7(Spec No S3):3–S9.Google Scholar
- 13.Inglesby T. Important questions global health and science leaders should be asking in the wake of horsepox synthesis. The Bifurcated Needle; 2017.Google Scholar
- 15.Hutchison CA, Chuang R-Y, Noskov VN, et al. Design and synthesis of a minimal bacterial genome. Science. 2016;(6280):351.Google Scholar
- 16.Venter JC, Gibson D. How we created the first synthetic cell. The Wall Street Journal; 2010, May 26 (Opinion).Google Scholar
- 17.J Craig Venter Institute. First self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell frequently asked questions. 2010. http://www.jcvi.org/cms/research/projects/first-self-replicating-synthetic-bacterial-cell/faq. Accessed 4 Oct 2013.
- 18.Pollack A. His corporate strategy: the scientific method. NY Times. 2010;5:BU1.Google Scholar
- 19.US Department of Health and Human Services. Screening framework guidance for providers of synthetic double-stranded DNA. Fed Regist. 2010;75(197):62820–32.Google Scholar
- 20.International Gene Synthesis Consortium (ICSC). Harmonized screening protocol: gene sequence & customer screening to promote biosecurity. 2009.Google Scholar
- 21.International Gene Synthesis Consortium. International gene synthesis consortium updates screening protocols for synthetic DNA products and service. 2018, January 3.Google Scholar
- 22.Carter SR, Friedman RM. DNA synthesis and biosecurity: lessons learned and options for the future. San Diego: J. Craig Venter Institute; 2015.Google Scholar
- 23.Dieuliis D, Carter SR, Gronvall GK. Options for synthetic DNA order screening, revisited. mSphere. 2017;2(4)Google Scholar
- 24.National Academies of Sciences E, Medicine. A proposed framework for identifying potential biodefense vulnerabilities posed by synthetic biology: interim report. 2017.Google Scholar
- 25.Church G. De-extinction is a good idea. Scientific American; 2013.Google Scholar
- 27.Wade N. Synthetic bacterial genome takes over a cell, researchers report. NY Times; 2010, May 20, A17(L).Google Scholar
- 28.Grant B. News in a nutshell. Scientist; 2011.Google Scholar
- 29.J. Craig Venter Institute. Press release: first self-replicating synthetic bacterial cell. 2010, May 20.Google Scholar
- 30.DIYBio.org web page. Accessed 22 Feb 2016.
- 31.Zayner J. Learn science by doing. 2016. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/diy-crispr-kits-learn-modern-science-by-doing#/. Accessed 25 Mar 2016.
- 32.Baltimore Under Ground Science Space (BUGSS). BUGSS Safety Manual. 2012, July 1.Google Scholar
- 33.iGEM: Synthetic Biology Based on Standard Parts. 2015. http://igem.org/About. Accessed 1 Apr 2016.
- 34.White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Doing diligence to assess the risks and benefits of life sciences gain-of-function research. 2014, October 17.Google Scholar
- 35.Gronvall GK. H5N1: a case study for dual-use research. Council on Foreign Relations Working Paper, 2013, July.Google Scholar
- 37.Gryphon Scientific. Risk and benefit analysis of gain of function research. 2015.Google Scholar
- 39.Gronvall GK, Shearer M, Collins H. National biosafety systems. UPMC Center for Health Security; 2016, July.Google Scholar