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Recent Advances in Gene Editing and Synthesis Technologies and their Implications
Paper submitted by the United States and presented by Gigi Gronvall at the August 2018 Meeting of Experts on Review of developments in the field of science and technology related to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction. This paper considers several emerging biotechnology capabilities that may have implications for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), in view of their “dual use” implications for bioweapons development. It includes sections on: Gene editing; Metabolic pathway engineering; Gene drives; and Gene synthesis. The paper briefly describes some of the legitimate applications and benefits of these technologies, identifies challenges to realizing these benefits, and describes the nature and impact of their potential BW applications, to permit a balanced assessment. It then describes a recently developed framework for evaluating risks of misuse and identifying mitigation options. Finally, the paper highlights the need for greater international collaboration and harmonization of approaches to address potential biosecurity threats that might result from applications of biotechnology.