Center Wilson: biological GMO-guns are dangerous as nuclear weapons, but it's much easier to make
Material posted: Publication date: 23-10-2017
International center for scholars Woodrow Wilson (or Wilson Center) prepared a report on "Intelligent and connected to the Internet of the laboratory of the future: the prospects and dangers of the Fourth industrial revolution".

Experts conducted a fundamental analysis of the situation in the rapid development and convergence of several technologies:

• the genetic editing;
• artificial intelligence;
• automation;
• cloud computing;
• etc.

Convergence and further development of these technologies, according to experts, will lead to the emergence of Internet-connected intelligent biological laboratories with a high degree of automation actions. The powerful tools of synthetic biology (such as gene editing technique CRISPR) compatible with AI that will allow you to create new effective drugs and vaccines, but at the same time pose risks of genetic construct very powerful new toxins. To grow GMO arbitrary composition will become easy as never before.

So now there are more research areas in which automatic and remote tasks is possible in few mouse clicks. There is no doubt that technological progress will stop and the functionality of these Autonomous biological laboratories will continue to grow, especially if their work involves AI. Theoretically it is even possible that a person need to specify the list of properties for GMOs, which he wants to create — and the artificial intelligence system will select the appropriate structure of the genome and synthesizes the GMO order. Editing techniques like CRISPR will be available to a wide range of customers, and not only a small number of competent and qualified professionals, as it is now.

Experts note that governments understand the threat of biological weapons. In particular, it has taken some measures to restrict access by potential intruders to pathogens or tools that can be used to create biological weapons. However, the very rapid pace of scientific-technical progress opens up new loopholes for bad guys, and state regulation is not keeping pace with them. According to experts, one of the best ways to proactively protect from improper usages of new technologies is public funding promising startups in areas such as artificial intelligence and genome sequencing.

Investment in technology for the Fourth industrial revolution: genome sequencing, DNA synthesis, laboratory automation, genomics, cloud computing, CRISPR and artificial intelligence, the growing of organs on a chip. The green circles marked investment funds

During the adoption of the biological weapons Convention (1972) and other government regulations aimed at preventing the threat of biological warfare, the biggest threat seemed to leak of a biological agent from the laboratory class BSL-4, that is, the maximum level four Biosafety.

The location of all biological laboratories class BSL-4, is able to produce biological weapons

But the threat goes much deeper than that. For example, the remaining strains of smallpox are kept just two BSL-4 laboratories in the world — one in USA, another in Russia. Now it is enough to protect the two laboratories. But the genetic code of smallpox is freely available on the Internet, and in the future nothing puts the attacker to reproduce the genetic code of variola virus Variola major, with a mortality rate of 20-90%, or to create a genetically modified version with a mortality rate close to 100%. The nature of the variola virus evolved 16-68 thousand years ago, but genetics is able to continue the process of evolution.

Recently canadian genetics was able to recover the smallpox virus horses, which was considered lost long ago. Curiously, they used the DNA synthesis custom remote laboratory. This type of will work auto-laboratory for the synthesis of organisms in the future. Just specify the desired DNA chain, and get a sample in the mail.

For example, the three mutations in the avian influenza virus H7N9 enough to adapt this virus to spread among people like an ordinary flu. Given the mortality rate is 40%, you can imagine what chaos will arise in the society after the beginning of the epidemic of this flu.

The risk of creating biological weapons is growing as reduce the cost and distribution of modern technology of synthetic biology. Experts of the Center of Wilson warned that the civil defense system needs to prepare to repel the attacks of bioterrorism not only from known viruses (as of now), but from the unknown strains from which there is no vaccine yet. That is, you need to work out a system of rapid sample collection and excretion of vaccine in the shortest possible time.

Need to prepare for the fact that bioterrorism will become a part of our everyday life. In the event of another attack did not panic, but people acted according to the instructions.


Tags: science , AME