NPR

Report For Defense Department Ranks Top Threats From 'Synthetic Biology'

A committee of experts examined about a dozen different synthetic biology technologies that could be potentially misused. For each, they considered how likely it was to be usable as a weapon.
Modern tools of biology could allow someone to recreate a dangerous virus, such as smallpox, from scratch. Source: Dr. Hans Gelderblom

New genetic tools are making it easier and cheaper to engineer viruses and bacteria, and a report commissioned by the Department of Defense has now ranked the top threats posed by the rapidly advancing field of "synthetic biology."

One of the biggest concerns is the ability to recreate known viruses from scratch in the lab. That means a lab could make a deadly virus that is normally kept under lock and key, such as smallpox.

"Right now, recreating pretty much any virus can be done relatively easily., a microbiologist at the University of Michigan who chaired the committee convened by the to assess the state of synthetic biology and offer advice to defense officials.

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