BIOSECURITY IN THE AGE OF AI
Technological advancements in life sciences research – turbocharged by new and emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities – are furnishing incredible breakthroughs in human health, sustainable development, and other fields. This convergence promises world-changing benefits for health and well-being, including opportunities to achieve global goals for pandemic preparedness and response, improve cancer detection and treatment, and alleviate chronic diseases such as diabetes. More broadly, AI holds the potential to transform sectors ranging from agriculture and food security to defense to climate change and energy production. While these technologies will unlock incredible opportunities, they will also pose incredible challenges, with specific risks emerging at the intersection of AI and synthetic biology (AI Bioconvergence or AI-Enabled Biology).
In late May of 2023, the problem-solving organization Helena convened a small group of senior leaders from industry, government, think tanks, and academia to interrogate this risk landscape and pressure-test courses of action. Their conversations took place at The Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center.
The following report distills key recommendations emerging from those discussions. At the crux of the meeting in Bellagio was the following question:
Imagine it is five years from now, and we are living in a world that has embraced the promise of AI-Enabled Biology, yet remains safe and secure from biorisk. What governance and policy decisions must we make now to arrive at this optimal future?
‘Biosecurity in the Age of AI’ Chairperson: Hon Mark Dybul, MD
Helena member and Professor of Medicine at the Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC).
Managing Partner, Helena Special Investments; Chair, Health Advisory Board, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Elizabeth (Beth) Cameron, PhD
Professor and Senior Advisor to the Pandemic Center, Brown University School of Public Health.
Anita Cicero, JD
Deputy Director, Center for Health Security, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
James Diggans, PhD
Head of Biosecurity at Twist Bioscience.
Kevin Esvelt, PhD
Associate Professor, MIT Media Lab; Co-Founder, SecureDNA Foundation.
Siri Laura Feruglio, MD, PhD, DTM&H
Senior Medical Officer & Department Director, Norwegian Institute of Public Health National Preparedness Laboratory for Highly Pathogenic Diseases (Ministry of Health Care and Care Services).
Tom Inglesby, MD
Director, Center for Health Security, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Marc Lipsitch, DPhil
Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.
Director of Programs (Acting), African Society for Laboratory Medicine.
John Mattison, MD
Scholar in Residence for Safety and Ethics for AI and Advanced Technologies, Center for Healthcare Design, University of California, San Diego; Strategic Advisor to numerous AI and biosynthetic companies.
Cassidy Nelson, MD
Head of Biosecurity Policy, The Centre for Long-Term Resilience
Megan Palmer, PhD
Senior Director of Public Impact, Ginkgo Bioworks; Adjunct Professor, Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University.
David Relman, MD
Professor of Medicine and of Microbiology & Immunology at Stanford; Senior Scholar Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford
Chief of Staff, Strategy and Portfolio, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
Senior Fellow at The Janne E. Nolan Center on Strategic Weapons, Council on Strategic Risks
Jaime M. Yassif, PhD
Vice President, NTI Global Biological Policy and Programs.
Donald Ofili, MD
Director & Deputy Registrar, Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria; African Society of Laboratory Medicine West Africa Technical Working Group Chair
Pandemic Center, Brown University School of Public Health
The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)
Centre for Biosecurity and Biopreparedness, Denmark
Because this statement does not represent a consensus and given the positions held by several participants, it was determined that the names of those attending “Biosecurity in the Age of AI,” convened under the Chatham House Rule, would not be published.
However, a number of prominent leaders and experts in the fields of biosecurity, biosafety, and artificial intelligence provided invaluable insights in shaping this statement and its recommendations. Among them are the following individuals and organizations:
Helena is a new breed of institution designed to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Through Helena Projects, we seek to implement solutions to critical societal problems. Helena’s past and current work has addressed elements of climate change, governance reform, and existential risk mitigation, and encompassed nonprofit, for-profit, and legislative actions.