Biology can be misused, and the risk of this causing widespread harm increases in step with the rapid march of technological progress. A key security challenge involves attribution: determining, in the wake of a human-caused biological event, who was responsible. Recent scientific developments have demonstrated a capability for detecting whether an organism involved in such an event has been genetically modified and, if modified, to infer from its genetic sequence its likely lab of origin. We believe this technique could be developed into powerful forensic tools to aid the attribution of outbreaks caused by genetically engineered pathogens, and thus protect against the potential misuse of synthetic biology.
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