America Is Unprepared For The Bioterror Threat Of Gene Editing

For all its national security focus on terrorism, America is deeply unprepared for future terror threats that could come from emerging biotechnologies, says an Obama administration advisory committee.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently issued a public letter to the administration, calling for a renewed and expansive biodefense strategy. While noting that the world has had to contend with plenty of natural microbial threats, such as the Zika virus, the letter highlights the dangers in new, “exponential” advances in bioengineering if maliciously or improperly used. These involve everything from relatively cheap, speedy gene-editing methods like CRISPR to techniques that now allow scientists to create synthetic DNA from scratch.