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Center for Health Security Senior Scholar Dr. Gigi Gronvall Testifies at Maryland General Assembly

Center News

Gigi Kwik Gronvall, PhD

March 9, 2021 – Dr. Gigi Gronvall, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, provided expert testimony at a hearing at the Maryland General Assembly on gene synthesis providers and manufacturers of gene synthesis equipment.

The hearing was convened by Maryland’s House of Delegates’ Health and Government Operations committee.

Dr. Gronvall’s testimony provided an expert voice in support of the new legislation introduced, HB1256: Maryland Department of Health – Gene Synthesis Providers and Manufacturers of Gene Synthesis Equipment – Certification.

“This legislation, if enacted, requires not only that customers use companies that perform biosecurity screening but also that companies offering DNA synthesis services in Maryland perform sequence screening. These restrictions would make it harder for a potential nefarious actor to access genetic material for making pathogenic viruses from synthetic DNA, such as smallpox, Ebola or influenza,” said Dr. Gronvall. “Both the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency and the periodic impacts of Ebola virus on West African nations highlight the potentially devastating effects on individual health and both social and economic well-being that can happen when pathogens like these afflict societies. This bill can help to make the field of synthetic DNA safer and ensure responsible manufacturing processes.”

Read the full testimony. (PDF)