More than 30 European and American experts from industry, research, EU and associations presented and discussed the requirements for biosecurity in the use and commercial supply of synthetic genes.
The workshop was organized by the newly founded Industry Association of Synthetic Biology (IASB) based in Heidelberg, Germany, that focuses on the advancement and development of this technology. Due to the increasing performance of DNA and gene synthesis, this area of research is growing dynamically and requires effective measures for safe use of these products.
The rapid and cost-effective availability of DNA molecules opens up new opportunities but also entails novel risks in biotechnology. According to the workshop participants, these risks primarily include the purposeful misuse of the technology. However, inadvertent mistakes in the proper use of the new technological potential of synthetic biology must be considered.
The workshop focused on planning of appropriate risk management measures: sources of error may be reduced by systematic cataloguing and adequate user information via a dedicated internet portal. The risk of misuse may be minimized by close monitoring of customer orders.
The first steps towards implementation of these strategies have already been taken: an anonymized survey of industrially produced and delivered genes will rapidly establish the current data status and provide a solid basis for the further development of biosecurity provisions.
In addition, it is planned to establish a sequence database accessible for all companies involved in gene synthesis that will help to identify orders requiring closer scrutiny. A panel of experienced researchers and representatives from relevant authorities will be involved in the establishment of the database and the resulting reviews.
“Synthetic biology offers the potential to obtain new research results and products in very short time. Therefore, the use of this technology should be made as safe as possible. The IASB will support the creation of an appropriate regulatory environment in close cooperation with European and German authorities,” declared IASB spokesmen Peer Stahler (chairman of the IASB), febit synbio GmbH, and Markus Fischer, Entelechon GmbH.