NAS Publishes Report On Biodefense In The Age Of Synthetic Biology
On June 19, 2018, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (National Academies) published a press release announcing the availability of a final report entitled Biodefense in the Age of Synthetic Biology. According to the National Academies, the final report concludes that “[s]ynthetic biology expands the possibilities for creating new weapons — including making existing bacteria and viruses more harmful — while decreasing the time required to engineer such organisms.” Some malicious applications of synthetic biology that may not seem plausible right now could become achievable with future advances.
The final report, which builds on and supersedes an interim report released in August 2017, explores and envisions potential misuses of synthetic biology, including concepts that are regularly discussed in open meetings. In the interim report, the Committee on Strategies for Identifying and Addressing Potential Biodefense Vulnerabilities Posed by Synthetic Biology proposed a strategic framework intended to identify and prioritize potential areas of concern associated with the field and to help biodefense analysts as they consider the current and future synthetic biology capabilities. The Committee designed the framework for analyzing existing biotechnology tools to evaluate the dangers at present, understand how various technologies compare with and complement each other, and assess the implications of new experimental outcomes. More information is available in Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.’s (B&C®) memorandum.