Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bioinformatics used to detect rogue use of synthetic biology

Date:
July 20, 2010
Source:
Virginia Tech
Summary:
A team of students is using bioinformatics to implement federal guidance on synthetic genomics. The students' work will help gene synthesis companies and their customers better detect the possible use of manufactured DNA as harmful agents for bioterrorism.

A team of students from ENSIMAG, an engineering school in Grenoble, France, and Virginia Tech is using bioinformatics to implement federal guidance on synthetic genomics. The students' work will help gene synthesis companies and their customers better detect the possible use of manufactured DNA as harmful agents for bioterrorism.

Synthetic biology offers huge potential for practical applications in medicine, energy production, agriculture, and other areas. For a few thousand dollars, it is now possible to design custom DNA sequences the size of a viral genome, order these sequences from a DNA manufacturer, and receive the DNA in the mail within a few weeks. Experts are concerned, however, about the potential misuse of these emerging technologies and that is where the student's project could play a key role in preventing synthetic biology malpractice.

Jean Peccoud, associate professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech and leader of Virginia Tech's iGEM initiatives, said, "The students have taken great strides in implementing different possible interpretations of the federal recommendations. Their work characterizes the relationship between the computational cost of the screen and its sensitivity. This independent scientific analysis will identify practical solutions compatible with the operational constraints of commercial operators and refine policies aimed at protecting the nation without undermining its competitiveness."

Algorithms under development assess how similar a specific DNA sequence is to entries in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Select Agent and Toxin List. Keyword lists help to track down matches and allow for continual fine-tuning of the effectiveness of each search. The students are compiling a database of test cases that allows them to estimate the performance of different screening strategies.

Edward You, supervisory special agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, had the opportunity to visit VBI on June 4 and gave a seminar entitled "Biosecurity: The roles and responsibilities of academia and law enforcement." During his visit, he met with some of the students working on the iGEM project. "The students should be commended for tackling a real-life problem directly related to national security needs," said Agent You. By working on this significant project, they are actively participating in the development of responsible practice for this transformative science, which is exactly what the government of this country wants to encourage." He added: "It is very promising to see undergraduate students at iGEM engage their peers in thinking about biosecurity. The groundbreaking work of this international team impacts the safety of people around the globe."

Skip Garner, executive director of VBI, commented: "This project would not have been possible without the support of the MITRE Corporation and Science Applications International Corporation. The sponsorship of these two industrial organizations, widely recognized for their expertise in defense and security, will certainly help transform these scientific results into meaningful outcomes for society."

The final results of the Virginia Tech-ENSIMAG biosecurity team's analyses will be presented in November at the International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGEM) synthetic biology competition organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

US Department of Health and Human Services voluntary guidelines "Screening Framework Guidance for Synthetic Double-Stranded DNA Providers" November 2009.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech. "Bioinformatics used to detect rogue use of synthetic biology." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100719112010.htm>.
Virginia Tech. (2010, July 20). Bioinformatics used to detect rogue use of synthetic biology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100719112010.htm
Virginia Tech. "Bioinformatics used to detect rogue use of synthetic biology." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100719112010.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

'Crazy' Climate Forces Colombian Farmers to Adapt

AFP (Sep. 26, 2014) Once upon a time, farming was a blissfully low-tech business on Colombia's northern plains. Duration: 02:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins