GenoTHREAT software program goes open-source

Virginia Tech has licensed GenoTHREAT, a software program that detects the presence of synthetic DNA in an effort to minimize possible biosecurity risks, using the Apache License Version 2.0 in an open-source format.

GenoTHREAT uses the “best match” screening protocol method to minimize the risk that unauthorized individuals or those with ill intent will obtain toxins and other potentially dangerous materials from providers of DNA synthesis, according to Medical News Today. The screening protocol is the method currently recommended by the federal government.

"It was natural to start developing GenoTHREAT around the federal guidance on synthetic DNA," Jean Peccoud, an associate professor at Virginia Bioinformatic Institute at Virginia Tech, said, according to Medical News Today. "Since this regulation is only one of many regulations and policies that providers of synthetic DNA need to comply with, our current efforts aim at developing a more comprehensive biosecurity solution that can be customized for a variety of users.”

In developing GenoTHREAT, Peccoud and his team have been able to rigorously analyze the strengths and limitations of the best match method.

"This project exemplifies how it is possible to train students to use interdisciplinary strategies to confront today's most important scientific problems," Daniel Wubah, Virginia Tech's vice president and dean for undergraduate education, said, Medical News Today reports. "By breaking down the separation of basic and applied research, and by combining engineering and life science expertise, this team has made a valuable contribution to a real-world problem directly related to the security of our nation."

The research was published in the March issue of Nature Biotechnology.