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Mitigating the Risks of Synthetic Biology

A CFR Discussion Paper

Author: Gigi K. Gronvall, Senior Associate, Center for Health Security, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Mitigating the Risks of Synthetic Biology - gigi-kwik-gronvall-mitigating-the-risks-of-synthetic-biology

Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press

Release Date February 2015

17 pages

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Synthetic biology is a relatively new field that aims to make biology easier to engineer and more amenable to rational design. As the field expands, synthetic biology may become a pervasive industrial technology, replacing chemistry in applications as diverse as mining, environmental remediation, and the manufacture and production of common household goods and foods. However, synthetic biology may also be misused, and the advent of this technology has national security implications.

Gigi Kwik Gronvall, senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Center for Health Security and associate professor of medicine and public health at the University of Pittsburgh, discusses the possibility of biological accidents and the development and use of biological weapons in this new CFR Discussion Paper. She offers recommendations that address both domestic and international security concerns, highlighting ways to improve existing policies and build oversight for the use of synthetic biology.

This publication is sponsored by the Center for Preventive Action (CPA) and is made possible by the generous support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. CPA seeks to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention.

More About This Publication

Gigi Kwik Gronvall is a senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Center for Health Security and associate professor of medicine and public health at the University of Pittsburgh. She has published and lectured extensively on issues such as laboratory security and personnel security, the need for and process of procuring medical countermeasures, the management and governance of dual-use biological advances, and the approach the United States should take to ensure national security while promoting new advances in biotechnology. Gronvall is the author of the book Preparing for Bioterrorism: The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Leadership in Biosecurity. She is working on a second book about the governance and risks of synthetic biology.

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