Scientific advances over the past several decades have accelerated the ability to engineer existing organisms and to potentially create novel ones not found in nature. Synthetic biology, which collectively refers to concepts, approaches, and tools that enable the modification or creation of biological organisms, is being pursued overwhelmingly for beneficial purposes ranging from reducing the burden of disease to improving agricultural yields to remediating pollution. Although the contributions synthetic biology can make in these and other areas hold great promise, it is also possible to imagine malicious uses that could threaten U.S. citizens and military personnel. Making informed decisions about how to address such concerns requires a realistic assessment of the capabilities that could be misused.
Biodefense in the Age of Synthetic Biology explores and envisions potential misuses of synthetic biology. This report develops a framework to guide an assessment of the security concerns related to advances in synthetic biology, assesses the levels of concern warranted for such advances, and identifies options that could help mitigate those concerns.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Biodefense in the Age of Synthetic Biology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24890.
|2 Biotechnology in the Age of Synthetic Biology||15-22|
|3 Framework for Assessing Concern About Synthetic Biology Capabilities||23-36|
|4 Assessment of Concerns Related to Pathogens||37-58|
|5 Assessment of Concerns Related to Production of Chemicals or Biochemicals||59-70|
|6 Assessment of Concerns Related to Bioweapons that Alter the Human Host||71-84|
|7 Related Developments That May Impact the Ability to Effect an Attack Using a Synthetic BiologyEnabled Weapon||85-94|
|8 Options for Mitigating Concerns||95-114|
|9 Moving Forward: Conclusions and Recommendations||115-128|
|Appendix A: Specific Synthetic Biology Concepts, Approaches, and Tools||147-156|
|Appendix B: Selected Prior Analyses Used to Inform the Framework||157-162|
|Appendix C: Questions to Stimulate Consideration of Framework Factors||163-166|
|Appendix D: Committee Biographies||167-170|
|Appendix E: Disclosure of Conflict of Interest||171-172|
|Appendix F: Study Methods||173-176|
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