Towards a Synthetic Biology Blueprint for Countering Biological Threats to the United States

Sanjana J. Ravi & Amor A. Menezes

We propose identifying how US federal agencies can integrate synthetic biological technologies to enhance biosecurity. Our proposal is motivated by inadequate technical and policy approaches to tackle biological threats (including naturally occurring outbreaks, accidental contaminations and bioreleases, and bioterrorism) that jeopardize public health and national security. Synthetic biology is a promising tool to address these inadequacies. Our work will deliver a comprehensive blueprint that details relevant synthetic biology products for federal scientists, health/biosecurity experts, and policy makers. For example, our blueprint will: (1) explain synthetic biology outcomes that enhance diagnostic capabilities and accelerate drug and vaccine production; (2) suggest actionable policies and regulatory approaches to govern, facilitate, and incentivize these efforts; and (3) weigh the posited benefits of recently developed or technically feasible synthetic biology solutions against the merits of existing technologies. A proof-of- concept blueprint will focus on two federal agencies. Ultimately, the proposed effort could advance both scientific innovation and national biodefense.