United Nations launch of SSHM report on Synthetic Biology and Biosecurity

A report on synthetic biology and security by SSHM researchers Catherine Jefferson, Filippa Lentzos and Claire Marris will be launched at the United Nations in Geneva on 6 August 2014.

The event coincides with the annual meeting of bioweapons experts, and will showcase developments in science and technology relevant to the Biological Weapons Convention. In addition to the presentation of the report, talks will also be given on microbial forensics and pathogenicity. Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 21.11.18The event is co-sponsored by the US National Academies of Sciences, the Royal Society, the International Union of Microbiological Societies, the Inter-Academy Panel, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and King’s College London.

The report – Synthetic Biology and Biosecurity: How scared should we be?  – argues that the link between synthetic biology and heightened biosecurity threats is often exaggerated and that in order to produce more refined assessments of the biosecurity threat, we need to understand more clearly what would be achieved by synthetic biology’s goal to ‘make biology easier to engineer’ and to recognise the complex skills and equipment that would still be required to ‘engineer’ biology. It also draws attention to the security implications of tacit knowledge in the life sciences.

An electronic version of the report was launched in May 2014 and can be accessed here. It was well-received by policymakers, and has already been quoted in the annual review undertaken for the 170 Biological Weapons Convention member states of trends in science and technology related to the treaty.

The  report formed part of King’s on-going work on the social dimensions of synthetic biology, conducted within the EPSRC funded Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation and the Flowers Consortium and an ESRC funded project on the politics of bioterrorism.

Please see the programme of the event here.

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