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Technology to screen for synbio abuses lags
Date:9/16/2010

London, UK (September 16, 2010) Amid growing concern that synthetic life sciences pose biosecurity and biosafety risks, scrutiny is increasing into the burgeoning DNA sequence trade. Research published today in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE, looks at the necessity of a global regulator for DNA trade, and the significant barriers to creating one.

Synthetic life sciences are making breakthroughs at a breakneck pace, and could offer technological fixes for our future ecological, technological, and biomedical challenges. But these benefits also come at a price.

Gabrielle Samuel of the Centre for Biomedicine and Society, Kings College London, UK, along with Michael Selgelid, of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Australian National University in Canberra and Ian Kerridge from the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia, argue that the synthetic life sciences are not entirely benign. Their paper addresses regulatory options to respond to valid fears that this technology enables the synthesis of pathogenic agents, which could be used as biological weapons.

Policy recommendations on regulating the DNA sequence trade have generally focused on the regulation of longer, gene-length DNA sequences: It is easier to determine the nature of longer DNA sequences (i.e., what genes they contain and which organism, pathogenic or not, they come from). Further, the technology required to produce them is still relatively limited worldwide, and is often used in the synthetic life sciences.

At present there is no globally harmonized system to ensure all sales from DNA companies are for approved purposes. In Germany and in the United States, firms are required to limit the synthesis and delivery of specific, potentially dangerous DNA sequences to those researchers and institutions authorized to receive them. Many gene synthesis have a volun
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Contact: Jayne Fairley
jayne.fairley@sagepub.co.uk
020-732-48719
SAGE Publications UK
Source:Eurekalert

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