Unleashing terror? How to catch deadly mail-order DNA

The federal government has a short list of regulated organisms. But the government’s ban focuses on the organisms themselves, rather than the genetic instructions for making them. Because the government has not published those sequences, the companies must decide for themselves whether a mail order request is potentially dangerous.

God in a kit: the perils and possibilities of a tool called CRISPR

Alex Kelly, BioFoundry’s 26-year-old lab manager, compares biotech to the birth of the computer, once cloistered in big corporations, now at everyone’s fingertips. Upskill the people in biotech, Kelly believes, and you’ll get disruption writ large, with a potentially massive payoff for the most disadvantaged.

CRISPR offshoot still makes mistakes editing DNA, raising concerns about its medical use

Variations of the genome editor CRISPR have wowed biology labs around the world over the past few years because they can precisely change single DNA bases. But such “base editors” can have a serious weakness. A pair of studies published this week shows that one kind of base editor causes many unwanted—and potentially dangerous— “off-target” genetic changes.

Panama tropical race 4 outbreak forces industry to embrace better biosecurity, soil health and the search for alternative varieties

Living with Panama disease tropical race 4 has come at a huge cost to growers, government and the community. But far from being a death knell to the $600 million industry, growers have emerged stronger and better equipped to contain the spread of this deadly soil-borne disease.

A Holistic Assessment of the Risks and Benefits of the Synthesis of Horsepox

This paper offers an analytical framework is used to assess the risks and benefits of such dual use research, and relevant components of biosecurity policy and the biodefense enterprise (including the acquisition of medical countermeasures) in the United States are discussed.

China wants to rein in its rogue gene-editing scientists

China is tightening rules on gene-editing, after a Chinese scientist prompted a global outcry by claiming that he had edited the genes of a pair of newborn twins. In a draft regulation released this week, China’s National Health Commission proposed a stringent approval process for biomedical research and heavy penalties for scientists who evade oversight.