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J Occup Environ Hyg. 2017 Mar;14(3):224-236. doi: 10.1080/15459624.2016.1237031.

Synthetic biology and occupational risk.

Author information

1
a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health , Washington, DC.

Abstract

Synthetic biology is an emerging interdisciplinary field of biotechnology that involves applying the principles of engineering and chemical design to biological systems. Biosafety professionals have done an excellent job in addressing research laboratory safety as synthetic biology and gene editing have emerged from the larger field of biotechnology. Despite these efforts, risks posed by synthetic biology are of increasing concern as research procedures scale up to industrial processes in the larger bioeconomy. A greater number and variety of workers will be exposed to commercial synthetic biology risks in the future, including risks to a variety of workers from the use of lentiviral vectors as gene transfer devices. There is a need to review and enhance current protection measures in the field of synthetic biology, whether in experimental laboratories where new advances are being researched, in health care settings where treatments using viral vectors as gene delivery systems are increasingly being used, or in the industrial bioeconomy. Enhanced worker protection measures should include increased injury and illness surveillance of the synthetic biology workforce; proactive risk assessment and management of synthetic biology products; research on the relative effectiveness of extrinsic and intrinsic biocontainment methods; specific safety guidance for synthetic biology industrial processes; determination of appropriate medical mitigation measures for lentiviral vector exposure incidents; and greater awareness and involvement in synthetic biology safety by the general occupational safety and health community as well as by government occupational safety and health research and regulatory agencies.

KEYWORDS:

Biocontainment; bioeconomy; gene editing; lentivirus; synthetic biology; viral vectors

PMID:
27754800
DOI:
10.1080/15459624.2016.1237031
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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