Editing Biosecurity: Needs and Strategies for Governing Genome Editing

This study’s purpose was to highlight the changing safety and security landscape engendered by the emergence of new genome editing technologies, help policy-makers and other stakeholders navigate this space, and illuminate broader trends in the life sciences that may impact the biosecurity landscape.

The two-year Editing Biosecurity study was led by four researchers from George Mason University and Stanford University. The centerpiece of the study was three invitation-only workshops that brought together the study leads and the core research group for structured discussions of the benefits, risks, and governance options for genome editing.

The study leads and research assistants prepared two working papers to frame the workshop discussions. The first working paper reviewed past studies that assessed the risks posed by emerging dual-use technologies. The goal of this working paper was to provide a baseline for understanding the security implications of genome editing and to identify best practices in risk assessment. The second working paper provided an overview of the current governance landscape for biotechnology and a framework for evaluating governance measures. Each workshop included a range of scientific, policy, ethics, and security experts. The study leads gathered additional information from subject-matter experts in the form of five commissioned issue briefs. Several of the study’s experts served as discussants who critically engaged the content of the issue briefs through iterative commentary and feedback. The study leads and core research group have backgrounds in various disciplines, including the life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities, an approach designed to ensure a rigorous research process underpinned by the inclusion of a variety of perspectives, and further complemented by numerous areas of expertise. The study and its products relied on unclassified, open, and publicly accessible information. The study was an independent academic work in which the charge and scope were determined by the research team. In combination, these factors were motivated by the team’s goal of producing open and accessible research outputs that can assist stakeholders in crafting more effective and informed policies.