What Is Biosecurity for the Twenty-First Century?

After September 11 and the anthrax attacks in 2001, the United States adopted a top-down governance structure for bioterrorism that famously employed “guns, gates, and guards” to prevent attacks, while keeping track of suspicious “insiders” who might cause harm. But today, after the emergence of the novel coronavirus and its variants, society’s idea of what constitutes biological security and safety is changing. Looking toward a future in which gene editing can be done by do-it-yourselfers, biological engineering is common, and environmental changes shape new biorealities, the old top-down model of biosecurity will not be up to the task.

In this webinar, originally broadcast on May 23, 2022, Melissa Haendel (University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus), David Gillum (Arizona State University), Sam Weiss Evans (Harvard Kennedy School), and Yong-Bee Lim (Council on Strategic Risks) discussed how to reimagine biosecurity and biosafety—and even the relationship between biological research and society—for a new era. The conversation was moderated by Bryan Walsh (Vox Future Perfect).

To learn more, visit Issues.org and read their pieces below.

    • Twenty Years After the Patriot Act, What Is the Future of Biosecurity? by Yong-Bee Lim, David Gillum, & Kathleen Vogel. “To deal with tomorrow’s biological threats, we must go beyond guns, guards, gates, and lists of suspicious germs.”
    • Building a Data Infrastructure for the Bioeconomy by Gopal Sarma & Melissa Haendel. “A new generation of interoperable data systems can secure public health and guide public policy in a future of rapid environmental change, sophisticated biological threats, and an economy enabled by biotechnology.”
    • When All Research is Dual Use by Sam Weiss Evans. “Governing new biosecurity threats is not merely a matter of good intentions and better training; it requires a paying proper attention to the social contexts of science.”
    • Charting a New Course for Biosafety in a Changing World by David Gillum, Rebecca Moritz, Yong-Bee Lim, & Kathleen Vogel. “Today’s conversations around biosafety must foster proactive, risk-based education and reporting mechanisms suited to the complexity of the emerging bioeconomy.”
    • Building a Bottom-Up Bioeconomy by Philip Shapira et al. “Engineering biology could play a critical role in creating a sustainable, resilient, and equitable bioeconomy, but getting there requires reimagining industrialization itself.”