Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Open-source software minimizes synthetic biology risks

March 22, 2011

Virginia Tech has licensed GenoTHREAT, a software tool that helps detect the use of synthetic DNA as bioterrorism agents, says Jean Peccoud, associate professor at Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.

GenoTHREAT implements the “best match” screening protocol recommended by the federal government to minimize the risk that unauthorized individuals or those with malicious intent will obtain toxins and other potentially dangerous materials from DNA synthesis providers.

Since the first synthetic cell in May 2010, the security and ethical aspects of synthetic biology have been debated in congressional hearings and by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and the National Academy of Science, among others.

The software is available to the gene synthesis industry and synthetic biology community in an open-source format.

Their work appears in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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