Gene synthesis firms unite to tighten security

Five gene synthesis firms have begun taking increased measures to ensure that their products cannot be used as tools for bioterrorism.

The five companies - DNA 2.0, GeneArt, GenScript, Integrated DNA Technologies and Blue Heron Biotechnology - provide 80 percent of global gene synthesis capacity.

The companies have announced the forming of the International Gene Synthesis Consortium, which aims to further reduce the likelihood that any terrorists or terrorist organizations could procure manufactured DNA sequences for use in the production of lethal disease agents.

"Gene synthesis itself provides us with powerful new opportunities to combat the threat of bioterrorism," Jeremy Minshull, president of group member DNA2.0. "We won't tolerate attempts to misuse gene synthesis technology to threaten the safety of any community."

Currently, purchase requests are screened by the firms to prevent the sale of genomes for disease materials that have been identified at the governmental level as possible bioterrorism agents.

A more extensive database will now be created to boost the scrutiny of the sale of genomes for disease materials.

Additionally, reviews of the purchasers themselves are planned to ensure that actual identities are provided and that purchasers have government authorization to possess the DNA sequences ordered.

Transactions will also be maintained  by the companies for a period of no less than eight years in case a law enforcement organization needs them.