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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Panel Recommends Defining Select Agents by DNA Sequence
3 August 2010 12:33 pm
Anthrax, Ebola, and smallpox are all dangerous pathogens that belong to a list of so-called select agents whose handling and storage are subject to special government regulations. But what about synthetically designed genomes that could be potentially as deadly as known pathogens?
The way to bring such unknown entities under regulation, according to a new National Academies report issued today, is to develop a new system of defining select agents based on DNA sequences. "That would provide a very sharp, bright line" to help gene-synthesis companies and their clients decide if a genomic sequence "meets the definition of a select agent or not," says Sean Eddy, a biologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, and one of the report's authors.
He says the proposed classification system could also help gene-synthesis companies and government officials spot potential bioterrorism plots involving novel organisms cobbled together from different pieces of custom-ordered DNA.
Not only would such a system help address biosecurity concerns, "it would also allow us to better define emerging diseases," says James LeDuc, chair of the panel and director of the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch. LeDuc hopes that the government will consider sequence-based classification as it implements a new plan to tier select agents by risk.
A full story on the report and its implications is in the 6 August issue of Science.