Trade barriers won’t slow China in the genomics race; we need to out-innovate


Were we to ignore these concerns, we would do so at our own peril.  Whether or not we realize it, we are at the dawn of a new information revolution.  This time however, the information stored and processed won’t be with 1′s and 0′s on silicon chips, but rather encoded in the operating system of life itself: DNA.  Genetic engineering and synthetic biology empowers people to alter the molecular mechanisms of cells and viruses, agents that can replicate and spread, potentially beyond human control.  This shouldn’t just be a national security concern.  It should be a global security concern.
Though we are in the earliest days of developing the emerging field of synthetic biology, in the coming years, it promises to have massive impact on everything from business to medicine and energy to warfare.  The Chinese government and BGI clearly understand this and are pouring tremendous resources into research and development of these biotechnologies.  That US Representative Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia, was the only member of Congress known to have publicly expressed concern about BGI’s purchase of Complete Genomics is not just startling.  It is also emblematic of how far the rest of Congress is from understanding how quickly the biotech revolution will be upon us and how dramatically it will impact all facets of our world.

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