Synthetic Biology:SB2.0/Biosecurity resolutions

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Contents

Overview

This is a placeholder page for discussions around the recent white paper:

From Understanding to Action: Community-Based Options for Improving Safety and Security in Synthetic Biology
Stephen M. Maurer, Keith V. Lucas & Starr Terrell
Goldman School of Public Policy
University of California at Berkeley

Below the text from the executive summary is included as discussed at the MIT town hall on April 21, 2006. (Note that slightly different text is used in the proposed resolutions).

[Editorial note: Depending on the amount of discussion, individual resolutions should be spun out to their own pages.]

A.1 Insist That All Commercial Gene Synthesis Houses Adopt Current Best Practice Screening Procedures.

While most gene synthesis companies screen orders for dangerous sequences, a few do not. This gives both community members and outsiders access to feedstocks for both wild-type and genetically engineered bioweapons. Community members should stop doing business with any gene synthesis company that fails to implement current best-practice screening methods by January 1, 2007.

A.2 Create and Endorse New Watch-Lists To Improve Industry Screening Programs.

Improved watch-lists and software tools can make industry screening more accurate and efficient. Members should prepare the necessary lists and tools in time for Synthetic Biology 3.0.

B.1. Create a Confidential Hotline For Biosafety and Biosecurity Issues.

All experimenters contemplating “experiments of concern” should obtain independent expert advice before proceeding. The community should make such advice freely available to all experimenters, including non-members (e.g. hackers) who cannot otherwise obtain such advice from formal university, company, or NIH safety committees.

B.2. Affirm Members’ Ethical Obligation to Investigate and Report Dangerous Behavior.

Members have an obligation to investigate and, if necessary, report dangerous behavior. Members should affirm this obligation by formal resolution at Synthetic Biology 2.0.

C. Create a Community-Wide Clearinghouse for Identifying and Tracking Potential Biosafety/Biosecurity Issues.

Members who notice potential biosecurity issues have an obligation to share them with the broader community. A central clearinghouse will help the community to identify, track, and if necessary respond to the biosafety/biosecurity implications of a changing technology.

D. Endorse Biosecurity/Biosafety R&D Priorities.

New technologies can potentially reduce current biosafety/biosecurity risks even further. Members should identify, endorse, and urge funding agencies to invest in priority technologies such as safe chasses and bar codes.

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