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Genetic Engineering

Already a research team at the University of Alberta has recreated from scratch an extinct relative of smallpox, horsepox, by stitching together fragments of mail-order DNA in just six months for about $100,000 — without a glance from law enforcement officials.

The team purchased overlapping DNA fragments from a commercial company. Once the researchers glued the full genome together and introduced it into cells infected by another type of poxvirus, the cells began to produce infectious particles. ...
“To unleash something deadly, that could really happen any day now — today,” said Dr. George Church, a researcher at Harvard and a leading synthetic biologist. “The pragmatic people would just engineer drug-resistant anthrax or highly transmissible influenza. Some recipes are online.”

“If they’re willing to inject themselves with hormones to make their muscles bigger, you can imagine they’d be willing to test more powerful things,” he added. “Anyone who does synthetic biology should be under surveillance, and anyone who does it without a license should be suspect.” ...
“There are really only two things that could wipe 30 million people off of the planet: a nuclear weapon, or a biological one,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, an adviser on pandemic influenza preparedness to the World Health Organization.

“Somehow, the U.S. government fears and prepares for the former, but not remotely for the latter. It baffles me.”
- Emily Baumgaertner, As D.I.Y. Gene Editing Gains Popularity, ‘Someone Is Going to Get Hurt’, NYT, May 14, 2018


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