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CRISPR and Biosecurity

Some of the greatest advances in the biosciences have come in technologies that enable scientists to predictably and precisely modify the genomes of living organisms. These techniques are collectively known as genome editing. Genome editing is poised to make major contributions to life sciences research, medicine, public health, agriculture, and the biomanufacturing industry. But by using these same innovations and breakthroughs for malicious purposes, genome editing can also expand and transform the security landscape. This project  will generate policy options and recommendations on how to assess the benefits and risks of this powerful and promising technology, how to manage the demands of promoting innovation and preventing misuse, and how to adapt current, or create new, governance mechanisms to achieve these objectives.  We seek to inform deliberations in the life sciences, regulatory, and security policy communities, as well as the broader scientific community and public stakeholders, on the appropriate measures to promote and safeguard this promising and powerful new technology.

Advances in Biotech Security Landscape

The Threat of Smallpox


Jesse Kirkpatrick, PI (George Mason University, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy; New America)

David Relman, PI (Stanford University; Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Infectious Diseases)

Gregory Koblentz, Co-PI (George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government)

Megan Palmer, Co-PI (Stanford University, Center for International Security and Cooperation) 

Sarah Welch Denton (Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy)

Edward Perello (Arkuity Ltd.)


The project has been funded and made possible by the Smith Richardson Foundation.


Koblentz, Gregory D. “A Critical Analysis of the Scientific and Commercial Rationales for the Synthesis of Horsepox Virus,” mSphere, Vol. 3, No. 2 (March/April 2018), pp. 1-10.


Palmer, Megan J. et al.“On Defining Global Catastrophic Biological Risks,” Health Security, 15(4): 347-348.

Koblentz, Gregory D. “The De Novo Synthesis of Horsepox Virus: Implications for Biosecurity and Recommendations for Preventing the Reemergence of Smallpox” Health Security, Vol. 15, No. 5 (2017), pp. 1-9. 


Denton, Sarah W. “Biosecurity in the Age of Genome Editing: Assessing the Risks, Benefits, and Governance Options.” Governing Emerging Technology 2018, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ, May 16, 2018.


Koblentz, Gregory D. “Strategies for Strengthening the BWC,” presentation at the NGO Roundtable on Institutional Strengthening of the BWC at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Washington, DC, May 1, 2018.


Kirkpatrick, Jesse, Gregory Koblentz, Megan J. Palmer, David Relman. Bruce Tiu, Sarah W. Denton, Kelsey Gloss. “Biosecurity in an Age of Genome Editing,” American Society for Microbiology, Baltimore, MD, February 14, 2018.

Koblentz, Gregory D. “Synthesis of Horsepox Virus and Its Implications for National Security,” presentation at the Jonathan B. Tucker CBW Symposium, Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at National Defense University and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Washington, DC, December 13, 2017.


Kirkpatrick, Jesse, Gregory Koblentz, Megan J. Palmer, David Relman. “Biosecurity in the Age of Genome Editing: Assessing Risks, Benefits, and Governance Options,” International Workshop Assessing the Security Implications of Genome Editing Technology, Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, Germany, October 12, 2017.


Megan J. Palmer. “How to be Safe and Secure in the Biological Age" Biohack the Planet (Oakland, CA) August 25, 2017.


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