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