Cover: Supporting Follow-Up Screening for Flagged Nucleic Acid Synthesis Orders

Supporting Follow-Up Screening for Flagged Nucleic Acid Synthesis Orders

Published in: Council on Strategic Risks/Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons Briefer, May 7, 2024

Posted on rand.org May 16, 2024

by Tessa Alexanian, Sella Nevo

Medical diagnostics, biomanufacturing, and many other parts of the bioeconomy rely on synthetic DNA and RNA purchases, which are ordered from commercial providers and shipped to laboratories around the globe. In addition to enabling beneficial biotechnology, affordable and accessible nucleic acid synthesis raises biosecurity concerns: some sequences can be used to reconstruct pathogen genomes or engineer dangerous biological agents, and it's necessary to ensure those sequences are not misused by actors seeking to cause harm. Most commercial synthesis providers screen the orders they receive to identify sequences of concern that could facilitate the construction of dangerous biological agents. When sequences in an order are flagged, follow-up screening determines whether the order is fulfilled. This screening centers on the customer: do they have a legitimate, peaceful purpose for obtaining the flagged sequences of concern? This follow-up screening is the subject of this briefer.

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