Report finds link between synthetic biology and biothreats is exaggerated

A new report published by King's College London on Thursday said that the link between heightened biosecurity threats and synthetic biology is often exaggerated.


"Synthetic Biology and Biosecurity: How scared should we be?" summarized the results of a February 2014 workshop that saw a collaboration between policy experts, social scientists, science journalists and synthetic biologists, Phys.org reports.


The research team said that a better understanding of the skills and equipment needed to "engineer" biology is needed to produce a more refined assessment of a potential biosecurity threat.


"It is often assumed that synthetic biology will "de-skill" biology and that this means that any layperson working outside professional scientific institutions is, or soon will be, able to design and engineer living organisms at will," Claire Mannis, one of the authors of the report, said, according to Phys.org. "However, workshop participants argued that this representation is too simplistic. As we see in other industries such as aeronautics, de-skilling does not necessarily mean that specialized expertise becomes irrelevant."


The 2014 Synthetic Biology and Biosecurity workshop was part of King's work on understanding the social aspects of synthetic biology, Phys.org reports.