Security & Engineering Biology

As the tools of engineering biology develop and unlock solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges, the potential grows for those same technologies to be used in ways that ultimately cause harm to people or planet, resulting from either intentional, nefarious use, or from the unintended consequences of well-intentioned efforts. The EBRC Security Focus Area supports activities that bring academic, government, and industry engineering biology stakeholders together to understand the nature of these potential negative outcomes and build strategies to minimize and mitigate them. By weaving engagement with security issues into the fabric of engineering biology training and research, we aim to support the field as it delivers on the promises of engineering biology without assuming unacceptable risks of negative outcomes.

Programs & Activities

  • Malice Analysis: Assessing Biotechnology Research for Security Concerns

    EBRC’s Malice Analysis Workshops endeavor to build and support security awareness within the engineering biology community. Workshops train researchers and others associated with engineering biology to evaluate their own work for security concerns. By providing participants with the tools and framework to engage in this type of analysis, EBRC hopes participants will be prepared to consider, discuss, and improve security in engineering biology research throughout their careers. These efforts are funded by the US Department of Homeland Security.

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  • improving security

    Improving Security Considerations in Engineering Biology Research

    The EBRC Improving Security Considerations program is a broad effort to encourage researchers in engineering biology to consider the security implications of their work. Through workshops and other educational activities, we aim to establish norms and practices for researchers and the research-support community to better incorporate security into the research enterprise.

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  • Workshops with the National Security Community

    EBRC holds periodic workshops and other events to bring engineering biology researchers and the national security community together to discuss trends in the field, address potential concerns, and establish long term relationships.

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  • OBSERV Pilot Event

    Obfuscating Biological Sequences to Ethically Reveal Vulnerabilities   The OBSERV Pilot Event has been postponed. Over the course of several months, OBSERV was developed in close consultation with subject matter […]

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Working Group

The Security Working Group is comprised of synthetic biology professionals from academia, industry, and government who keep abreast of new developments in the field and communicate the security implications of these developments to appropriate stakeholders. This group also serves as a resource for external organizations to draw upon for technical expertise from practitioners with an understanding of security implications.

Chair: Kate Adamala
Staff Director: Becky Mackelprang
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  • JL Clem Fortman
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    Laurie Zoloth
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Security News

  • March 4, 2019

    North Korea’s Less-Known Military Threat: Biological Weapons

    Military analysts are increasingly concerned about the nation’s “advanced, underestimated and highly lethal” bioweapons program.

  • March 4, 2019

    National Biodefense Strategy

    National Biodefense Strategy

  • February 16, 2019

    New Addition to the EBRC staff

    We welcome Dr. Clem Fortman to the EBRC staff at the Director for National Security Engagements!

  • February 16, 2019

    PNNL has developed a new, publicly available, tool

    PNNL has developed a new, publicly available, tool for understanding the current state of the U.S. biodefense enterprise. The Biodefense Policy Landscape Analysis Tool (B-PLAT, v2.0) →.

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