International Workshop

Assessing the Security Implications of Genome Editing Technology

October 11-13, 2017
Hanover, Germany

Advances in genome editing technologies have enormous implications for the health and well-being of society and the environment. Genome editing tools, such as CRISPR/Cas9, enable scientists and clinicians to make faster, easier, and more precise changes in the DNA of microbes, plants, animals, and humans. Despite the promise to improve medicine, agriculture, and conservation, among other applications, the rise and ease of use of new genome editing technologies has fueled debates about their utility and safety. The advances are outpacing the capability of domestic and international security communities to coordinate and develop evidence-based policies.

To contribute to these discussions, the InterAcademy Partnership (the global network of academies of sciences and medicine), the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the European Academies Science Advisory Council, and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, convened an international workshop to explore the potential security concerns posed by genome editing technologies.  This workshop brought together experts across the globe in genetic engineering, security studies, and public policy to discuss mechanisms, policies, and strategies to mitigate or prevent potential misuse.  The need for international dialogue is particularly important because of the rapid development and wide-spread use of genome editing tools in countries with various, sometimes divergent, regulations and governance of research. Workshop participants explored near- middle- and long-term security concerns – relating to intentional misuse – that may arise from these applications. Participants also discussed technical, operational, regulatory and governance strategies that may aid the scientific and security communities in preventing or mitigating those security concerns. A report summarizing the workshop discussions will be published by the InterAcademy Partnership.

This workshop was kindly supported and hosted by the Volkswagen Foundation.  Additional support was provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Please join the conversation online at #GeneEditSecurity


Genome Editing and Security: Governance of Non-Traditional Research Communities?

June 25, 2018

Gene Editing Webinar - Intro video

Opening Remarks – Keegan Sawyer

Gene Editing Webinar - Millett

iGEM Competition – Piers Millett

Gene Editing Webinar - Kuiken video

DIY Biology – Todd Kuiken  +  Q&A

**Click the slide image to watch the webinar recording**

Advances in genome editing tools outpace the capability of domestic and international security communities to coordinate and develop evidence-based policies for responsible research and application of these tools.

The 2017 international workshop, Assessing the Security Implications of Genome Editing, launched a global conversation about potential security concerns posed by genome editing technologies. One question that arose is whether technology advances will facilitate the ability of a broader range of people to use, or potentially misuse, genome editing tools.

Building upon the discussions at the international workshop, this webinar explored how non-traditional research communities like the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM) and the DIYbio community laboratories, are addressing security questions with innovative new programs that promote responsible conduct of research.

 About the Webinar Speakers:

Dr.  Piers Millet is Vice President of Safety and Security at the iGEM Foundation and a Senior Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute.  Dr. Millet conducts research and analysis on the security implications of, and policy responses to, the deliberate malign use of modern biology and biotechnology. He spent more than a decade working for the Biological Weapons Convention, the international treaty that bans these weapons. He also collaborates with a wide range of international  organizations, including the World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Committee for the Red Cross, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs and INTERPOL. Dr. Millet is a founding member of the Safety Committee of the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition (iGEM) and co-founder of a consultancy firm that works with government, industry and academia to ensure the safe, secure and sustainable exploitation of biology as a manufacturing technology

Dr. Todd Kuiken is Senior Research Scholar at the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University. Dr. Kuiken’s research focuses on democratization of science. In particularly he examines the environmental and biosecurity implications of research and technology, and mechanisms to both stimulate discovery and develop new tools to address public policy challenges that emerge as science advances. In September 2016 he received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to facilitate interactions between the emerging ‘makers in biology’ ecosystem and formal regulatory institutions to ensure safe, responsible innovation. He is a member of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group on Synthetic Biology.  He is an executive member of the human practices committee at the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition and a founding member of its biosafety/biosecurity committee. In addition, he is collaborating with on a project to ensure safety within the rapidly expanding community of amateur biologists and the growing network of community laboratories. The initiative is analyzing and developing programs around the potential biosafety and biosecurity threats associated with such a diffuse community.