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Our publications keep professionals working across the public, private, and academic sectors informed on the most important developments and issues in health security and biosecurity.

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The Promise and Peril of Synthetic Biology Needs More Attention

Gigi Kwik Gronvall
Date posted:
February 19, 2015
Publication type:

Brink 19 Feb 2015

Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.
Available on publisher's website
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Synthetic biology—often called “genetic engineering on steroids”— is on track to become an economically vibrant industry with national security implications. The rapidly expanding synthetic biology market is projected to grow to $16 billion by 2018.

While it is a relatively new field, synthetic biology has already been used to develop an antimalarial drug, make flu vaccines more rapidly, and to produce biofuels, detergents, adhesives, perfumes, tires, and specialized chemicals that formerly required the use of petrochemicals.

But like other powerful and important technologies, synthetic biology holds the potential for accidental or deliberate misuse, which could lead to severe health and environmental consequences. The potential dangers of synthetic biology, such as accidental pathogen release, are detailed in a new report, Mitigating the Risks of Synthetic Biology, from the Council on Foreign Relations.



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