Editing Biosecurity: Needs and Strategies for Governing Genome Editing


We are an interdisciplinary group of researchers who have come together to conduct a study on biosecurity in the age of genome editing.

Our overarching goal is to study critical biosecurity issues related to genome editing technologies and present policy options and recommendations on how to assess their benefits and risks, how to manage the often-competing demands of promoting innovation and preventing misuse, and how to adapt current, or create new, governance mechanisms to achieve these objectives. We seek to inform deliberations in the life sciences, regulatory, and security policy communities, as well as the broader scientific community and public stakeholders, on the appropriate measures to promote and safeguard this promising and powerful new technology.




Our Team


Jesse Kirkpatrick

Principal Investigator, George Mason University

Jesse Kirkpatrick is Assistant Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at George Mason University, an affiliate Assistant Research Professor in Mason's graduate neuroethics concentration, and a Politico-Military Analyst for Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, where he was awarded a Hoobler Fellowship for his work on postconflict justice and public policy. Jesse specializes in political and moral philosophy, with an emphasis on the just war tradition, emerging technologies, human rights, and security studies. Prior to joining the Institute, Jesse was an Assistant Professor at Radford University and a Research Fellow at the US Naval Academy.


David Relman

Principal Investigator, Stanford University

David A. Relman, MD is the Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor in Medicine, and Microbiology & Immunology, and Co-Director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He is also Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System in Palo Alto, California. Dr. Relman’s research focus is the human indigenous microbiota, and the identification of previously-unrecognized microbial agents of disease. He has advised the U.S. Government on emerging infectious diseases, human-microbe interactions, and future biological threats. He is Chair of the Forum on Microbial Threats at the Institute of Medicine (National Academies of Science) and Past President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and a Member of the National Academy of Medicine.


Gregory Koblentz

Co-Principal Investigator, George Mason University

Gregory D. Koblentz is an Associate Professor and Director of the Biodefense Graduate Program in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. He is also an Associate Faculty at the Center for Global Studies at George Mason and a member of the Scientist Working Group on Chemical and Biological Weapons at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, DC. During 2012-2013, he was a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations where he conducted research on nuclear proliferation.


Megan Palmer

Co-Principal Investigator, Stanford University

Dr. Megan J. Palmer is a Senior Research Scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University. She leads a research and practice program on risk governance in emerging technology development, with a a focus on how security is conceived and managed as biotechnology becomes increasing accessible. Her current projects focus on assessing strategies for governing dual use research, analyzing the international diffusion of safety norms and practices, and the understanding the security implications of alternative  technology design decisions.

Dr. Palmer holds a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT and a B.Sc.E. in Engineering Chemistry from Queen’s University, Canada.


The Study


In 2017, researchers from George Mason University and Stanford University initiated a two-year multidisciplinary study, Editing Biosecurity, to explore critical biosecurity issues related to CRISPR and related genome editing technologies. The overarching goal of the study was to present governance options and recommendations to key stakeholders, and to identify broader trends in the life sciences that may alter the security landscape. In characterizing the landscape, and in the design of these options and recommendations, the research team focused on how to manage the often-competing demands of promoting innovation and preventing misuse, and how to adapt current, or create new, governance mechanisms to achieve these objectives.

The four study leads and seven research assistants for Editing Biosecurity were assisted by a core research group of fourteen subject-matter experts with backgrounds in security, the life sciences, policy, industry, and, ethics. The centerpiece of the study was three invitation-only workshops that brought together the study leads and the core research group for structured discussions of the benefits, risks, and governance options for genome editing. To support these workshops and the final report, the study leads prepared two working papers on risk assessment and governance, respectively, and commissioned five issue briefs on key topics.


March 15-16, 2018, Stanford University
December 18-19, 2017, George Mason University
May 26, 2017, George Mason University .


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