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Transcript
Synthetic Biology and
Biosecurity
Brett Edwards
Biochemical Security 2030 Project
University of Bath
SfAM Winter Meeting 15/0/14
Overview
This talk will provide an introduction to:
• The idea of ‘innovation biosecurity’
• Biological weapons
• The control of biological weapons
• The field of Synthetic Biology
• As a techno-scientific field
• Implications for biosecurity
• Some key trends and challenges
What is innovation biosecurity?
• Increasingly the term ‘biosecurity’ refers to biological weapon threats
• Innovation biosecurity relates to the promises and challenges raised
for security specifically by advances in S&T
• New applications
• New foundational technologies
• Changes in the practice of innovation
What is a Biological Weapon ? (1)
• Definition:
Systems designed to deliver toxins and microorganisms, such as
viruses and bacteria, in order to cause disease among people,
animals, and agriculture
Usually understood to include means of delivery,
and agent payload.
Can serve a range of purposes
(i.e terrorism, tactical/strategic, political objectives)
Can be low-tech or high-tech
What is a Biological Weapon ? (2)
• Biological weapons are ‘taboo’- why?
• Taboo- norms and laws
• Moral explanations
• The ‘yuck’ factor
• Non-discriminatory weapons
• State centred strategic explanation
• Absence of Military Utility
• Fear or retaliatory use and escalation
• Concerns about terrorists
What is a Biological Weapon ? (3)
History of use and Development
Before Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) - 1975
• Evidence of Ancient use
• Large Bioweapons programmes established
globally from 1930’s onwards
• Japanese Cholera Attack 1941- Kills 12,000
Since establishment of BWC
• Continued covert secret programmes in some
states up until 1990’s
• Anthrax accident at Sverdlovsk, Russia- minimum 66
killed
• Russia officially closes programme in 1990
• Developed a range of weapon strains
• Increase in bioterror threat perceptions
• Massive US investment into biodefense
How are biological weapons governed?
International
Agreements
National Level
Policy
Scientific and
Industry Initiatives
International level (1)
• Primary regime is the Biological
and Toxins Weapon Convention
• Chemical Weapons Convention is
also increasingly relevant because
of scientific convergence
• States are banned from:
developing, stockpiling, developing
and using chemical and biological
weapons, or allowing any of these
things within national jurisdictions.
Classical
Industrial
Bioregulators
chemical
pharmaceutical
Peptides
weapons
chemicals
Toxins
Genetically
Traditional
modified
biological
biological
weapons
weapons
Cyanide
Fentanyl
Substance P
Staphylococcal
Modified
Bacteria
Phosgene
Carfentanil
Neurokinin A
enterotoxin B
bacteria and
Viruses
Mustard
Remifentanil
(SEB)
viruses
Rickettsia
Nerve
Etorphine
Agents
Dexmedetomidine
Anthrax
Midazolam
Plague
Tularemia
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
Poison
Infect
Table: Michael Crowley, presentation, BCS2030
project meeting, Bath (0ctober 2013) adapted from
Pearson (2002)
International level (2)
• There are two key facets of the BWC and CWC regimes:
• International reassurance: I.e states demonstrating compliance to other
states.
• National implementation: i.e to support states in the development of
national level policies
National level
• Laboratory biosecurity and laboratory biosafety
• Criminalisation of the possession of controlled biological agents without just
cause.
• Import and export controls
• Dual-use governance of advancing S&T
• Also emphasis on mitigation, response and attribution.
So what is the field of Synthetic Biology? (1)
‘Synthetic biology is the design
and engineering of biologically
based parts, novel devices and
systems as well as the redesign of
existing, natural biological
systems’
Synthetic Biology Roadmap
Co-ordination group (2012)
• GM + ?
• Convergent Technology?
• Brand name?
So what is the field of Synthetic Biology? (2)
- Emerged as a concept in US and
EU around 2004
- UK Research councils have
invested £62+ million to date
- US around $1 bn
- Public and Private investment,
Primarily biofuels
So what is the field of Synthetic Biology? (3)
Six subfields (Lam et al 2009)
DNA circuits
standard biological parts
Synthetic metabolic pathways
biological synthesis of chemicals
Proto-cell creation
model of a cell
Unnatural components
New proteins, with functions
Synthetic Microbial Consortia
Cells, working together
Key concerns and responses (1)
Concern
• Misuse of mail order
Polynucleotides (2005)
• Industry emergence
• Concern about circumvention of
select-agent controls by terrorists
Response
• Tightening up of select-agent
and GMO regulation so explicitly
cover all means of production
where neccisary
• Emergence of industry screening
practices
• Two competing standards
• US government also generated
guidance
Key concerns and responses (1)
Concern
• Misuse of research findings, and
laboratory biosecurity and
biosafety
Response
• Web of measures
• Education and outreach initiatives
• SB Community
• Law enforcement
• Scientific Institutions
• Forward looking policy discussions
• US- NSABB, SYNBERC
• EU -SYNBIOSAFE
• International- UNICRI, National
academies.
• Engineering safety into biology.
• Intrinsic Bio containment, Berkley.
Key concerns and responses (1)
Concern
• Militarization
Throughout history rapid periods
of scientific advance have been
associated with militarization.
Response
• Minimal discussion of policy
responses
Key Potential challenges for the field in the future
• The advances Synthetic Biology represent fresh
challenges for an already overworked international
regime
• Need to think beyond existing laboratory and biosecurity when
considering potential future challenges
• I.e broader trends such as industrialisation and diffusion,
convergence
• Need to ensure that policies and capacities are in place before
next public outcry to ensure measured and scientifically
informed response.
• I.e to avoid case by case review, as seen with recent H5N1 dual-use
debates
Thanks!
• Biochemical Security 2030
Project
• (PI Professor David Galbreath)
• Contact
Twitter: @biochemsec2030
Website: Biochemsec2030.org
Email: [email protected]