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Suggested Citation:"Disclosure of Conflict of Interest." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. A Proposed Framework for Identifying Potential Biodefense Vulnerabilities Posed by Synthetic Biology: Interim Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24832.
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DISCLOSURE OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST

The conflict-of-interest policy of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (www.nationalacademies.org/coi) prohibits the appointment of an individual to a committee like the one that authored this Consensus Study Report if the individual has a conflict of interest that is relevant to the task to be performed. An exception to this prohibition is permitted only if the National Academies determine that the conflict is unavoidable and the conflict is promptly and publicly disclosed.

When the committee that authored this report was established a determination of whether there was a conflict of interest was made for each committee member given the individual’s circumstances and the task being undertaken by the committee. A determination that an individual has a conflict of interest is not an assessment of that individual’s actual behavior or character or ability to act objectively despite the conflicting interest.

Dr. Patrick Boyle was determined to have a conflict of interest because he is an employee of Ginkgo Bioworks.

The National Academies determined that the experience and expertise of Dr. Boyle was needed for the committee to accomplish the task for which it was established. The National Academies could not find another available individual with the equivalent experience and expertise who did not have a conflict of interest. Therefore, the National Academies concluded that the conflict was unavoidable and publicly disclosed it through the National Academies Current Projects System (www8.nationalacademies.org/cp).

Suggested Citation:"Disclosure of Conflict of Interest." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. A Proposed Framework for Identifying Potential Biodefense Vulnerabilities Posed by Synthetic Biology: Interim Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24832.
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Building on an increasingly sophisticated understanding of naturally occurring biological processes, researchers have developed technologies to predictably modify or create organisms or biological components. This research, known collectively as synthetic biology, is being pursued for a variety of purposes, from reducing the burden of disease to improving agricultural yields to remediating pollution. While synthetic biology is being pursued primarily for beneficial and legitimate purposes, it is possible to imagine malicious uses that could threaten human health or military readiness and performance. Making informed decisions about how to address such concerns requires a comprehensive, realistic assessment. To this end, the U.S. Department of Defense, working with other agencies involved in biodefense, asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to develop a framework to guide an assessment of the security concerns related to advances in synthetic biology, to assess the level of concern warranted for various advances and identify areas of vulnerability, and to prioritize options to address these vulnerabilities.

This interim report proposes a framework for identifying and prioritizing potential areas of concern associated with synthetic biology—a tool to aid the consideration of concerns related to synthetic biology. The framework describes categories of synthetic biology technologies and applications—such as genome editing, directed evolution, and automated biological design—and provides a set of initial questions to guide the assessment of concern related to these technologies and applications.

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