problem - experimentation - discovery The scientific process

"When does new science
become a threat?".
The scientific process
problem - experimentation - discovery
The scientific process
problem - experimentation - discovery - dissemination
The scientific process
problem - experimentation - discovery - dissemination
Where do …………….. intervene in the
process to identify DURC
Controversial biological publications
• Jackson et al. 2001: Expression of Mouse Interleukin-4 by a Recombinant
Ectromelia Virus suppresses cytolytic Lymphocyte Responses and Overcomes
Genetic Resistance to Mousepox
• Cello et al. 2002: Chemical synthesis of Poliovirus cDNA: Generation of infectious
Virus in the Absence of a natural Template
• Tumpey et al. 2005: Characterization of the reconstructed 1918 Spanish Flu
influenza Pandemic Virus
• Wein et al. 2005: Analyzing a Bioterror Attack on the Food Supply: The Case of
Botulinim Toxin in Milk
• Herfst et al. 2012: Airborne Transmission of Influenza A/H5N1 Virus between
• Imai et al, 2012: Experimental Adaptation of an Influenza H5 HA confers respiratory
Droplet Transmission to a Reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 Virus in Ferrets
• Xiong et al. 2013: Receptor binding by a ferret-transmissible H5 avian Influenza
• Bieringer et al. 2013: Experimental Adaptation of Wild-Type Canine Distemper
Virus (CDV) to the Human Entry Receptor CD150
• Zhang et al 2013: H5N1 Hybrid Viruses Bearing 2009/H1N1 Virus Genes
transmit in Guinea Pigs by Respiratory Droplet
The scientific process
problem - experimentation - discovery - dissemination
Vanity publishing
Where do …………….. intervene in the
process to identify DURC
The scientific process
problem - experimentation - discovery - dissemination
Where do …………….. intervene in the
process to identify DURC
The scientific process
Open innovation
problem - experimentation - discovery - dissemination - repetition - adoption
Science is a moving target – good science identifies new ground
The pace of change
new traits
into an
organism at
the genetic
Use an
pathway to
Engineer an
organism to
modify to
an existing
Engineer an
organism to do
Engineer a
new functional
organism from
The politics of
20/20 hindsight
The pace of change
Can we prevent access to new sciences: e.g. oligonucleotide synthesis
Interferon gamma
17kDa, 166aa, 498 bp
Code of conduct – what is you want scientists to do differently?
Security culture – responsible conduct
The scientific process
problem - experimentation - discovery - dissemination
Where do …………….. intervene in the
process to identify DURC
Self policing
Constant vigilance!!
Provide education – at all levels
Engender a community responsibility
Provide a reporting framework
Provide confidential contacts
Provide a knowledge base
A problem
Categories of Experiments that might be DURC
1. Enhance the harmful consequences of a biological agent or toxin.
2. Disrupt immunity or the effectiveness of immunization without clinical
and/or agricultural justification.
3. Confer to a biological agent or toxin, resistance to clinically and/or
agriculturally useful prophylactic or therapeutic interventions against that
agent or toxin or facilitate their ability to evade detection methodologies.
4. Increase the stability, transmissibility, or the ability to disseminate a
biological agent or toxin.
5. Alter the host range or tropism of biological agent or toxin.
6. Enhance the susceptibility of a host population.
7. Generate a novel pathogenic agent or toxin, or reconstitute an eradicated
or extinct biological agent.
National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), USA, 2012;
Emerging Science Makes Security a Moving Threat Beyond the 15
Key Pathogens/7 Core Experiments of Concern – moving target
A problem
No common framework in which to conduct sound risk/benefits
analyses of science:
• In different countries
• In different cultures
• In different communities (e.g. science vs. security)
Therefore probability that too risky experiments yielding too
little benefit will be conducted.
• However, can we apply universal rules?
• Should the restrictions/expectations placed on a 3rd world be
the same as a developed nation?
• Rather do we really need common ethical guidance?
Who provides the solution
Quid est veritas: What is truth
• Convergence of science
• Divergence of scientists
- in interest/expertise
- who is doing the science - including
“the public”
The language
Advise on risk/benefit assessment and risk mitigation
• don´t do it
• do it in another way
• don’t publish it
• publish it with balancing/redacted information
• Advise on supporting structures, e.g.
local/regional ethical review committees
What is the cost of security?
“The biological world is displacing the machine as a general
world of design.”
DARPA – Living Foundries: Large U.S. investment in nextgeneration bio-based manufacturing
Unknown unknowns – horizon scoping and the pace of scientific
• Most science develops iteratively and easy to map.
• Some scientists work in a different way and think about where
they want to be and describe the route to get there, real scientific
• Step change is often serendipitous, or is unrecognized at the point
of discovery.
• Nature as a threat – biggest bioterroist.
How good at this are we?
Scientists are good at identifying where science is going in the near future
Horizon scoping 10 years and beyond less reliable – pace of change
Dealing with potential issues in advance ….
Discussion between science, policy and security ….
Identifying a clear and present danger
Coreponsibility …..