NTI | bio and the World Economic Forum (WEF) convened the third annual meeting of the Technical Consortium on DNA Synthesis Screening on May 12-13, 2022. The meeting brought together more than 20 global leaders from industry, academia, philanthropy, and international organizations from across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America to discuss progress in developing the international Common Mechanism for DNA synthesis screening. The discussions centered around the development of a new DNA sequence screening tool, which will be a core element of the Common Mechanism, as well as new approaches to customer screening, which is key to guarding against exploitation of DNA synthesis technology. Participants also explored approaches to integrating these tools into benchtop DNA synthesis devices, as well as technical methods for speeding up screening and testing the screening software to make sure it meets biosecurity requirements and the needs of DNA providers. The meeting also addressed the importance of building trust in the Common Mechanism and effective ways to build international support for this effort.
DNA synthesis is a key service that is used by bioscience labs around the world, and demand for synthetic DNA is growing. While DNA synthesis is critically important for biotechnology advances—including rapid development of therapeutics and vaccines—this capability must be protected from malicious actors who may seek to exploit it to cause harm.
NTI | bio and WEF first articulated the need for a global framework for accessible, safe, and secure DNA synthesis in a joint report published in 2020 based on the deliberations of an international working group. The work to establish a Common Mechanism for DNA synthesis screening includes not only a DNA sequence screening capability, but also the development of resources to support effective customer screening and active engagement with developers of benchtop DNA synthesis devices to ensure that the Common Mechanism can be used in that context. Over the past two years, NTI | bio has worked with Technical Consortium members to develop technical specifications for the Common Mechanism and has made significant progress in building a screening tool that meets these specifications.
NTI is planning to launch a new international organization in late 2022 – the International Biosecurity and Biosafety Initiative for Science (IBBIS) – which will serve as a home for the international Common Mechanism for DNA synthesis screening.