A Synthetic Biohazard Non-proliferation Proposal

George Church, Harvard Medical School, 18-Jun-2004; updated 21-May-2005. (Other Synthetic Biology Projects)

Leading up to the publication of the Tian et al. Nature paper we have been working with several government agencies to augment existing oversight mechanisms which are working well, including Recombinant DNA Guidelines and the Select Agent (biohazards) list. We proposed a low-cost extension to include monitoring of synthetic oligonucleotides. This is a great time to implement such extensions since the reagents and instruments are very limited and the new methods described in the new Nature paper even more limited. Companies seem very willing to do this voluntarily. So, with the help of discussions such as those occurring today, this could lead eventually to some level of international adoption. We should also keep in mind the improvement in for vaccine development afforded by being able to synthesize a larger set of candidate proteins.

The proposal in MS-word format

Addenda noted since June 2004:
  • Tian et al. Dec 2004. Related Synthetic Biology Research
  • Chyba&Greninger 2004 Biotechnology and Bioterrorism: An Unprecedented World.
  • Williams 2003 Acumen: The Looming threat.
  • Carlson 2003 The Pace and Proliferation of Biological Technologies
  • Petro et al. 2003 Biotechnology: Impact on Biological Warfare and Biodefense
  • Gesteland, R, M Cho, G Church, D Galas, C Rice, M Johnston, G Joyce, J Tiedje 2004 Synthetic Genomes: Technologies and Impact DOE BERAC.
  • Cinnagen Oligonucleotides
  • Bioneer Phosphoramidites, oligos, and genes.
  • Fidelity Phosphoramidites, oligos.
  • Proligo Phosphoramidites, oligos.

    Addenda noted Jan 2023: Important software project, Secure-DNA from Kevin Esvelt et al.