Government personnel responsible for the security of life sciences infrastructures are often not formally trained in biological sciences and relevant scientific fields. Although the security sector works together with the scientific community, the rapid pace of life sciences innovations, evolving terminologies, and shifts in research culture makes it challenging for the personnel in these positions to stay on top of current information. Moreover, the security sector is the population’s first line of defense when it comes to biological threats. Keeping these personnel apprised of current information is vital to developing appropriate mitigation strategies.
The Peccoud Lab hosted eleven law enforcement professionals with varying levels of biological experience who went through the 5-day program in the spring of 2017. The students gained a basic understanding of the techniques required to synthesize and express a gene and an improved comprehension of the equipment, environment, vocabulary, and cultural practices surrounding synthetic biology.
A 5-day hands-on awareness program was developed in order to support better understanding for those who liaise with research stakeholders, assess associated risks, and develop and implement security mitigation mechanisms. Lectures covered a range of topics relating to security and risk mitigation in synthetic biology, genome editing, and bioinformatics. The program also included over 25 hours of laboratory work and familiarization visits to different biological research facilities including academic laboratories, a small-scale industrial production facility, and a do-it-yourself community laboratory.
As a follow up to the program, a paper including the syllabus and outcomes of the trainings was submitted to Trends in Biotechnology was accepted June 19th, 2019.
On August 2nd Dr. Peccoud will be speaking of the success of this training at a workshop organized by Engineering Biology Research Consortium for the Department of Defense. The lab enjoyed developing and implementing this training and would like to provide this other agencies, possibly on a larger scale. If you are interested in organizing this synthetic biology training for your organization, please contact us.