Dangerous combination: Is CRISPR a potential weapon for terrorists?

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This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

For years, the international community has grappled with the threat of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear terrorism. And although al Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) have demonstrated interest in and some capability to develop and use such weapons, there have been no successful mass casualty terrorist attacks involving them.

Terrorists could use cyber capabilities to target any sector.

Beyond digitization, the other big technology innovation in agriculture is gene editing tools such as CRISPR-CAS9 (an abbreviation for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), a new technique that permits scientists to quickly and precisely alter, delete, and rearrange the DNA of every living organism.

CRISPR makes it inexpensive to intentionally misuse DNA sequencing data and editing software. Furthermore, advances in genome sequencing are allowing scientists to quickly and cheaply generate the DNA sequences of entire organisms and then digitize and store that data for research use. Terrorists could use that information to design bioweapons.

…Today, simple do-it-yourself CRISPR kits are available commercially for less than $150. In the wrong hands, these simple but powerful tools are a cause for alarm. Terrorists targeting the food supply chain could alter the avian influenza genome and engineer a large bird flu epidemic, similar to the 2009 H1N1 epidemic in Asia that affected not only poultry but also other mammals including human beings.

Governments around the world must prepare for both known biological threats and for the future, when genetically modified viruses and other agents can be introduced with as much frequency and ease as software viruses.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Cyberterrorism and Biotechnology: When ISIS Meets CRISPR

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