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Gene Synthesis Companies to Develop Biothreat Protocols

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Five international synthetic genetics companies have started a consortium that will focus on developing best practices for biosecurity protocols.

The International Gene Synthesis Consortium (IGSC), made up of Blue Heron Biotechnology, DNA2.0, GeneArt, GenScript and Integrated DNA Technologies, said today that it will work with governments and other interested parties to support efforts to keep gene synthesis technologies from being misused.

"Safety and security are a chief priority for all of the IGSC companies, as the growth of the gene synthesis industry depends on an impeccable safety record," Ralf Wagner, CEO and CSO of GeneArt, said in a statement.

"Recognizing that achieving real gains in biosecurity requires harmonization of screening and other practices, we have drafted a harmonized screening protocol and decided to form the IGSC in an effort to coordinate ongoing work toward shared best practices in the gene synthesis industry," added Nick Yan, VP of marketing at GenScript USA.

The IGSC has established five core practices that each company will employ to promote biosecurity practices.

• Every synthetic gene order will be screened against a Regulated Pathogen Database that the consortium will develop in partnership with a coordinated sequence reference data bank. The database also will be used to screen amino acid sequences.

• Each potential customer for synthetic genes also will be screened and must be cleared for delivery of genes, in accordance with national guidelines.

• The IGSC plans to keep all screening, customer, and order records for at least eight years.

• The IGSC partner companies also will have the right to refuse to fill any order and to notify authorities if they identify potentially problematic orders, and to coordinate efforts with local and national law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

• The consortium members also will comply with "all applicable laws and regulations governing the synthesis, possession, transport, export and import of gene synthesis and other products," IGSC said.

"Gene synthesis is the technology driver that will enable research institutions, companies and even individuals or small teams of scientists to develop solutions to the great challenges of our age, such as climate change, world hunger and pandemic disease," DNA2.0 President Jeremy Minshull said. But, gene synthesis also could be a powerful tool to combat bioterror threats, he noted.

"We won't tolerate attempts to misuse gene synthesis technology to threaten the safety of any community… [and will] scrutinize our orders to ensure that our customers are using our products for their potential benefits," he said.

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