Biosecurity of Synthetic Viruses

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Title: Biosecurity of Synthetic Viruses
Authors: Saalbach, Klaus
Contributions by: Saalbach, Klaus
Abstract: Synthetic methods in life sciences made rapid progress in the past few years, such as synthetic biology, synthetic genomics and synthetic virology. Synthetic viruses are genetically engineered viruses that are created to get deeper insights into the function of viruses, but they could also be used to develop live vaccines. Synthetic viruses are a small, but increasingly relevant area in virology. The open access to DNA sequence databases of many relevant viruses including smallpox and horsepox and the possibility to order DNA sequences commercially are the main biosecurity issues of synthetic virology. The open databases, the DNA synthesis firms and their clients are in the center of the biosecurity discussion and regulations. Extinct viruses could already be recreated as synthetic viruses solely on database information and commercially ordered synthetic DNA. The smallpox virus with its very high transmissibility and mortality is extinct and meanwhile new antivirals and vaccines are available which demonstrated their effect during the current monkeypox outbreak. However, the extinct horsepox virus that is closely related to smallpox could be re-created in 2017, i.e., it is technically possible to synthesize poxviruses and it is unlikely that the stockpiled antivirals and vaccines could control a new smallpox pandemic. Technical and financial hurdles for synthetic viruses remain high, but are already lower than in the past. Currently, tacit expert knowledge is still an important factor. Governments and scientific institutions need to detect earliest signs of critical developments. The paper gives a brief overview on synthetic biology, synthetic genomics and virology, the development of synthetic viruses, smallpox-related matters and the biosecurity measures.
Citations: Working Paper. Universität Osnabrück, Fachbereich 1 - Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Osnabrück 2022.
Subject Keywords: Synthetic virus; Synthetische Viren; Biosecurity; Biosicherheit
Issue Date: 29-Nov-2022
License name: Attribution 3.0 Germany
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Type of publication: Arbeitspapier [WorkingPaper]
Appears in Collections:FB01 - Hochschulschriften

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