Better by Design, Safer through Practice

Jon Marles-Wright

Consideration of biosafety and compliance with local rules and relevant legislation is a vital aspect of good practice in any laboratory that performs molecular biology. With advances in DNA synthesis and assembly, recombineering, and the widespread adoption of Cas nucleases for genome editing, our ability to programme cellular behaviours is advancing at an unprecedented rate. The current policy debate over whether these methods should be considered enough of an advance over the traditional molecular biology tools to require updated legislation highlights the need to reconsider how we approach our engagement with biosafety and biosecurity in our laboratories. In this paper, I examine current approaches to biosafety training and compliance in the academic context and propose the development of community standards and tools for risk assessment and biosafety reporting. My goal is to empower scientists to consider and communicate this underappreciated dimension of their work.