25 for Science, and the Royal Society. Many of the subject areas discussed in 2010 echoed those that were highlighted in 2006, including the “omics” fields,1 synthetic biology, delivery technology, and vaccine and countermeasures development. The workshop reviewed not only the potential to apply areas of S&T to the creation or delivery of biological agents that could be employed as weapons, but also to prevention, defense, and response against the misuse of biological agents, and to the promotion of beneficial uses of biology. Progress continues to be made in many of the research areas discussed in 2006 and 2010. Examples of key developments in advancing areas of life sciences are highlighted below. Particularly rapid developments have also occurred in enabling technologies and are discussed in more detail in Section 2.2.
2.1.2 Genomics, Systems Biology, and Synthetic Biology
Since the draft sequence of the human genome was published in 2001 and the completed sequence announced in 2003 (HHS and DOE, 2003; International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, 2004), the sequencing of additional human genomes has proceeded rapidly. A variety of large-scale collaborative genome sequencing initiatives have been undertaken, such as the international 1000 Genomes Project to catalogue human genetic variation as a resource for future biomedical research, which was mentioned at the workshop (The 1000 Genomes Project Consortium, 2010). A recent article on worldwide human genome sequencing efforts notes, “although far from comprehensive, the tally indicates that at least 2,700 human genomes will have been completed by the end of this month [October 2010], and that the total will rise to more than 30,000 by the end of 2011” (Nature, 2010). A significant proportion of this increased sequencing capacity is expected to come from China, where BGI (formerly the Beijing Genomics Institute) is now one of the
1 “Omics” fields in the life sciences generally refer to the holistic analysis of a set of biological information, in order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of its structure, function, interactions, and other properties. Omics fields include genomics, the study of the complete DNA sequence of an organism; metagenomics, the identification and analysis of the genomes of a community of organisms without first culturing and separating them; transcriptomics, the analysis of the set of RNA transcripts expressed by a cell, tissue, or organism; proteomics, the study of the set of expressed proteins that result from these transcripts; interactomics, the analysis of interactions among the molecules in a cell; metabolomics, the study of the cellular metabolites produced by the cell, tissue, or organism; and many others.