are included in the final report. Since the Forum secretariat was in the National Academies, the National Research Council (NRC), its operating arm, appointed a committee to oversee the preparations for the meeting (see Appendix A). The planning committee did not participate in the drafting of this summary, which was written by the NRC staff who supported the secretariat, serving as workshop rapporteurs.4

The rest of this chapter attempts to synthesize the history of recent developments that provided the context for the Forum. This material was presented by participants throughout the plenary sessions and working groups. Some of the details reappear in the summaries of the presentations and discussions at the Forum, but they are assembled here in one place in hopes of providing a more coherent narrative of events. Chapter 2 then provides a summary of the plenary sessions and discussions, followed by the reports of the three working groups. The final chapter offers a brief summary of the major themes and suggestions for possible actions and next steps that emerged from the discussions.


Continuing advances in the life sciences over the last 50 years, supported by enabling technologies such as vastly increased computing power, have brought great benefits for health, the economy, and the environment, and promise far more in the future. Along with the hopes, however, have come concerns that the knowledge, tools, and techniques gained through these developments might also be used in state or terrorist pursuit of biological weapons (BW). A frequently quoted warning about the potential risks came in 2000 from Matthew Meselson, a leading figure in the life sciences on issues related to biological weapons:

Every major technology—metallurgy, explosives, internal combustion, aviation, electronics, nuclear energy—has been intensively exploited, not only for peaceful purposes but also for hostile ones. Must this also happen with biotechnology, certain to be a dominant technology of the coming century? During the century just begun, as our ability to modify fundamental life processes continues its rapid advance, we will be able not only to devise additional ways to destroy life but will also be able to manipulate it—including the processes of cognition, development, reproduction, and inheritance. A world in which these capabilities are widely employed for hostile purposes would be a world in which the very na-


 The NRC is part of the National Academies, which also include the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Created in 1916, the NRC has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities.

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