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Synthetic Biology

Synthetic Biology
Life sciences continue to rapidly evolve with the advent of synthetic biology, which embodies an unprecedented ability to modify, create, or control molecules, cells, and complex biological systems. Further developments are making these advances available to individuals and organizations at ever-decreasing costs and reduced barriers. Consequently, we are experiencing a simultaneous change in the capacity to manipulate life, creating a paradigm shift regarding where and how such research is performed.

PNNL's Center for Global Security is joining the national conversation about synthetic biology by drawing on capabilities in bioinformatics, data analytics, signature detection, systems engineering, and policy analysis.

In 2015, with support from DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, the Center brought together a multi-disciplinary team of PNNL experts to help identify emerging threats to the nation's security. The Center hosted two workshops inviting participants to identify cross-cutting issues where the Center might bring to bear PNNL's global security science, technology, and policy expertise.

As a result of the workshops, the Center made a "deep-dive" examination into the threat and promise of synthetic biology, which was one of the issues identified. The Center delivered a technical roadmap containing recommendations to help decision makers, analysts, and researchers to:

  • Deter illicit research
  • Detect and differentiate research of concern
  • Develop tools to strengthen the U.S. technical base
  • Defend against natural and engineered releases.


  • Synthetic Biology: Assessing the National Security Risks - On Dec. 3, 2015 PNNL's Center for Global Security, including Gretchen Hund, Sarah Frazar, and Lindsey Gehrig, hosted a workshop on "Synthetic Biology: Assessing the National Security Risks" in Washington D.C. The event brought together more than 20 stakeholders and other participants from across the national security enterprise to address the risks and opportunities associated with rapidly evolving field of synthetic biology.

Looking forward, the Center will continue engaging stakeholders to address the anticipated and unanticipated consequences and benefits of S&T advancements in synthetic biology.

A complete list of recent and upcoming events is available on CGS Events.


A complete list of publications from the Center for Global Security is available in CGS Publications.

Center for Global Security

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