New guidelines for genetic screening to prevent bioterrorism split scientists

New guidelines have been presented for genetic screening to prevent the possibility of bioterrism, dividing the opinions of scientists on the matter.

As the production of very accurate and valid scientific results from genetic screening has become more common among synthetic-biology companies, a fear that this ability will allow bioterrorists to exploit the system has arisen. To combat this, a new set of guidelines was proposed by regulators in the United States.

The new regulations require companies and individual customers to be screened by a number of automated processes. Some of the processes will look for sequences included in the U.S. select agents and toxins registry.

Two synthetic-biology research companies announced in August that they would not abide by these international protocols - later joined by three more research companies - and then created their own set of guidelines.

The new guidelines did, however, receive positive feedback from the industry with industry experts stating that they would ensure safety in security in the real world of gene synthesis.

Some, however, reject the new guidelines, noting that the system would add a human element to the proposed guidance, which could give political cover to people who previously wanted to use much less strict screening.

Others argue that the guidelines will not protect citizens enough and others question if the guidelines will do little more than use bureaucracy to block screening procedures.

Feedback will be gathered about the proposed guidelines by the government over the next month with a public comment period due to begin on January 26. Analysts expect numerous companies, organizations and scientists to weight in on the matter.