Decade of Synthetic Biology in the Context of the Biological and Toxin Weapon Convention and the Chemical Weapon Convention

Brett Edwards, J. Revill

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


In recent years, synthetic biology has become symbolic of many of the challenges that advances in science and technology raise for the global regime prohibiting biological and chemical weapons. This has led to numerous technical reviews and governance initiatives directed at the field. However, there has been much less discussion about how experiences gained through these initiatives can help us understand existing capacities within the prohibition regime to respond to fundamental trends in innovation. Such reflection is important, as it allows us to question, in accessible and practical terms, how existing review processes might be better conceptualised and improved.

Within this paper we provide an introduction to synthetic biology as a techno-scientific field. This is followed by an introduction to a number of anticipatory security relevant initiatives which have been directed at this field. We then examine the way in which these developments have been addressed as part of international level review processes within the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Biological and Toxins Weapon Convention (BTWC).

We find that existing discussions of synthetic biology in the context of the BTWC and CWC not only point to opportunities and challenges associated with the field of synthetic biology, but also the need to develop clearer shared conceptualisations of principles of good practice in the areas of technology assessment and horizon scanning at both the national and international level.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherBiochemical Security 2030 Project
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - May 2016

Publication series

Namebiochemical Security 2030 Project Paper Series


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