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

tary customer and order screening system in place. But in general, current screening practices are non-uniform and disorganized.

Samuel et al believe there is a strong case for creating a global clearinghouse to oversee centrally all DNA sequence ordering, and provide a better means of regulating the DNA sequence trade. The benefits include detecting when different companies are used for multiple orders; crosschecking national and international databases; and screening individual orders for inconsistencies.

Unfortunately, the technology required for an effective clearinghouse is not currently available. The present regulatory technological capability for the synthetic life sciences is, at best, embryonic. Existing screening software efficiency is low (generating too many false positives); screening processes are too easily evaded; and there is no agreed procedure for investigating and managing suspect sequence orders. The onus is on current policy makers to make developing better technology a priority.

"The biosecurity threats posed by the synthetic sciences are very real, and yet efforts to counter these risks are hindered by limitations in existing technology and by failure to develop biosecurity responses that cross national borders and bypass national interests," says Samuel. "It is crucial that political and financial support is made available to advance public policy in this area and to hasten the development of better regulatory technology."

Synthetic genomics is the chemical synthesis of DNA sequences. The synthesized sequences can already exist as in the chemical synthesis of genes naturally found in an organism or it can involve the synthesis of novel, unnatural DNA sequences. Synthetic biology is both the design and construction of new biological parts, devices, and systems and the redesign of existing natural biological systems for useful purposes.

Because the synthetic life sciences may enable the synthe
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Contact: Jayne Fairley
jayne.fairley@sagepub.co.uk
020-732-48719
SAGE Publications UK
Source:Eurekalert

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