Atomic Pulse

Horsepox Research Accentuates Urgency for Global Action to Reduce Biological Risks

of “Construction
of an infectious horsepox virus vaccine from chemically synthesized DNA
by the journal PLOS ONE last week further accentuates the need
for urgent global dialogue to develop clear norms and actions for reducing
biological risks
posed by advances in technology. As governmental oversight
continues to lag behind biotechnology breakthroughs, academic and private
stakeholders conducting, funding, and publishing research – as well as those
developing new technologies – also must take responsibility for mitigating

research demonstrates the potential to recreate the virus that causes smallpox—one
of the greatest scourges the world has ever faced and eradicated. The risks
posed by the publication of methods that could ease the pathway for
synthesizing smallpox should have been carefully weighed from the outset. The
investigators themselves highlight the dual-use potential of their work, yet
there was no clear or routine process for taking those risks into account prior
to publication.  

won’t get easier to tackle these risks, and piecemeal approaches aren’t enough.
These experiments were conducted in Canada with private funding from a U.S.
company and involve an agent that is not on the U.S. Biological Select Agents
and Toxins list. U.S. dual-use regulations don’t apply to privately funded
research or research conducted outside of the country. And even if the research
had been conducted in the United States with federal funding, the existing U.S.
Dual Use Research of Concern policies would not likely have kicked in because
the virus causing horsepox is not included on the list of agents in those

forward, it’s clear that the capability to create and modify biological agents
is outpacing governmental oversight and public debate. Now more than ever,
scientific stakeholders, private sector actors, and biotechnology leaders
should develop and take specific actions to mitigate risk and accelerate
biosecurity innovation.  

states that it wishes to encourage debate surrounding dual use issues, and we
welcome that sentiment. However, for experiments with the potential to
significantly increase pandemic risk, we hope for a future in which that
conversation comes earlier—and not after—the research has been done and



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Diverse Voices in Global Biosecurity: Dr. Andrew Hebbeler on the importance of leading with humility

Atomic Pulse

Diverse Voices in Global Biosecurity: Dr. Andrew Hebbeler on the importance of leading with humility

NTI is committed to highlighting and supporting LGBTQ+ voices in national security during Pride Month and beyond. Sarah Stern, NTI’s Global Biological Policy and Programs intern, had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Andrew Hebbeler, the inaugural Director of Biosecurity at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and former Senior Director of Global Biological Policy and Programs at NTI, about the importance of diversity in biosecurity work and how he views his personal leadership style.

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