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  • Piers Millet

The BWC Implementation Support Unit is the closest thing to an international organisation to ensure biology is used solely for beneficial purposes. Housed in the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs in Geneva, we help States Parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (the international treaty) in banning the hostile use of biology. As a microbiologist and chartered biologist, I support the technical aspects of the ISU's work. I am very excited about the things that applying an engineering approach to biology will let us do and am keen to find ways to work with those involved in iGEM, you, to ensure biology continues to be used safely, securely and solely for our collective benefit.

Security in iGEM

In recent decades scientific research has created new and unexpected knowledge, technologies and approaches, such as synthetic biology, that offer unprecedented opportunities to improve human and animal health and environmental conditions. But science and technology can be used for destructive purposes as well as for constructive purposes. Advances in our control of biology opens up opportunities to intentionally cause harm to humans, animals, plants and the environment. It is important for us to appreciate what is being done, and perhaps more importantly, what more needs to be done and why.

Given the power of engineering biology, practitioners have a special responsibility when it comes to the potential for misuse of our science and technology. Ensuring that biology is used safely, securely and constructively should be of concern to us all. This is a challenge we will have to face together. To do this we will need to figure out what we want biological engineering to look like, what we are prepared for others to do with it and just how we want to tackle security issues. This page provides a space to focus on these issues and for you to help shape what should be done to stop those with a malign intent.

Securing biology is not a simple task. It is not something those outside biology can do alone. Equally it is not something that biologists can do without the access and resources that governments can provide. It will need us to work together, in new ways, to find an approach that provides benefits for all. There is a real opportunity here for iGEM and those participating in iGEM, to not only to shape how they will deal with security issues but to drive national and international processes. You can make a real difference in securing biology.

Securing Modern Biology

In this section of the page you will find a range of reports, presentations and other resources on various aspects of security.

"Why Secure Modern Biology" video

This is a 30 minute video of me arguing why we need to secure synthetic biology and biological engineering at SB4.0 in Hong Kong in 2008. It includes a short quiz that demontrates how hard it is to spot the use of biology for hostile purposes. It looks at some of the problems with trying to secure biology through top-down governmental approaches and the need to find a community-based response to this shared problem.