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Misuse of biological research: Do we need to be concerned?

Summary of a symposium on February 3rd 2017

Biocrimes have been committed. But they have been rare, happened far away and mostly involved natural pathogens. So should we as scientists be concerned at all?

Specimen bag for biological sample.
Image : A. Chiang (flickr)

Genome editing, genome synthesis, biobricks, gain of function experiments, nanocarriers: scientists are the driving force for advances in life science research that provide tools and products with great benefits for health and welfare. However, the very same discoveries, if malevolently applied, could also cause great harm. Health authorities worldwide are concerned about this “dual use” dilemma. If we as scientists were asked to consult the authorities, how would we respond? How would we address the misuse potential of life science research in order to prevent biocrimes but at the same time allowing the advancement of science?

The Forum for Genetic Research invited participants of the LS2 Annual Meeting as well as other interested persons to explore this question. Cédric Invernizzi, biosecurity and bioweapons expert of the Spiez Laboratory, explained in his input talk why there have been increasing security-related concerns about life science research and what measures authorities but also scientists have implemented so far. An interdisciplinar panel of young scientists then discussed about their understanding of ethical research, the importance of open communication and the unpredictability of biological research. Around 30 participants took part followed and joined in on a lively and entertaining discussion.

You can find a summary of the discussion in the attached PDF.

With: Cédric Invernizzi (Federal Office for Civil Protection), Sebastian Wäscher (University of Zurich), Michaela Egli (think tank reatch), Hulda Jonsdottir (University of Bern), Devang Mehta (ETH Zurich) and Fanny Georgi (University of Zurich)

The event was supported by the Federal Office of Public Health.

  • Panelists
  • Cédric Invernizzi (Labor Spiez, FOCP)
  • Hulda Jonsdottir (Universität Bern)
  • Fanny Georgi (Universität Zürich)
  • Devang Mehta (ETH Zürich)
  • Michaela Egli (reatch)
  • Sebastian Wäscher (Universität Zürich)
  • Martine Jotterand (Forum for Genetic Research), Cédric Invernizzi (FOCP)
  • Franziska Oeschger & Ursula Jena (Forum for Genetic Research SCNAT)
  • PanelistsImage : Christoph Lüthi (Forum Genforschung SCNAT)1/9
  • Cédric Invernizzi (Labor Spiez, FOCP)Image : Christoph Lüthi (Forum Genforschung SCNAT)2/9
  • Hulda Jonsdottir (Universität Bern)Image : Christoph Lüthi (Forum Genforschung SCNAT)3/9
  • Fanny Georgi (Universität Zürich)Image : Christoph Lüthi (Forum Genforschung SCNAT)4/9
  • Devang Mehta (ETH Zürich)Image : Christoph Lüthi, Forum Genforschung5/9
  • Michaela Egli (reatch)Image : Christoph Lüthi (Forum Genforschung SCNAT)6/9
  • Sebastian Wäscher (Universität Zürich)Image : Christoph Lüthi (Forum Genforschung SCNAT)7/9
  • Martine Jotterand (Forum for Genetic Research), Cédric Invernizzi (FOCP)Image : Christoph Lüthi (Forum Genforschung SCNAT)8/9
  • Franziska Oeschger & Ursula Jena (Forum for Genetic Research SCNAT)Image : Christoph Lüthi (Forum Genforschung SCNAT)9/9
Video (2017) Misuse of biological research: do we need to be concerned?


  • Biosécurité
  • Génie génétique
  • Organismes génétiquement modifiés (OGM)
  • Édition génomique