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Center for Health Security Gathers Experts from China and the United States to Examine the Potential Implications of the Rapidly Expanding Synthetic Biology Field

Center News


August 14, 2019 – On Friday, July 26, 2019, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Tianjin University Center for Biosafety Research and Strategy co-hosted an event that brought together leading experts and emerging leaders from China and the US to discuss the ways, both positive and negative, that synthetic biology may alter the social and economic frameworks of modern humanity.

Academics, thought leaders, and scientific experts convened in Washington, DC, for the meeting, Biosafety and Biosecurity in the Era of Synthetic Biology: Perspectives from the United States and China.

“Synthetic biology is an evolving interdisciplinary field that involves the application of engineering principles to biology,” explains Center Senior Scholar Caitlin Rivers, PhD, MPH. “As leaders in synthetic biology, the United States and China have both the opportunity and the responsibility to be trailblazers in promoting responsible conduct in research.”

Biotechnology has the potential to have a positive impact on international economies, sustainability, human health, and security. However, the current international governance structure for biological sciences is ill-equipped to manage risks from emerging biological technologies while still promoting beneficial research and development. Improved governance will require increased investment and a concerted global effort to create norms that support biosafety and security.

Meeting participants considered advances in synthetic biology and discussed new ideas for policy and science tools that could help mitigate risks inherent in these new technologies while also ensuring that they reach their potential. They agreed on the need for continuous, multidisciplinary, international dialogues to continue advancing work in this area.

A full report with a summary of the event and recommendations will be available soon.

The Center’s project team was led by Senior Scholar Caitlin Rivers, PhD, MPH, and included Senior Scholar Nancy Connell, PhD; Deputy Director Anita Cicero, JD; Analyst Marc Trotochaud, MSPH; and Center Director Tom Inglesby, MD.

About the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security:
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security works to protect people from epidemics and disasters and build resilient communities through innovative scholarship, engagement, and research that strengthens the organizations, systems, policies, and programs essential to preventing and responding to public health crises. The Center is part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is located in Baltimore, MD.