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CISSM Global Forum | Biosecurity in the Age of Biotechnology: Frameworks and Policy Options

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Dr. Stacy Okutani is the Technical Lead, CBRN supporting the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate

Registration for this event is not required but is appreciated (for planning purposes).

Event Description

Since the emergence of the capability to directly alter and transfer genetic sequences between species in the 1970s, the potentially far-reaching consequences of such work has generated policy concerns. Such research can yield both great benefits but also unintended or deleterious outcomes. In one of those paradoxes of history, this dawn of recombinant DNA research coincided roughly with the entry into force of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), an international treaty that was possibly the first to enact prohibitions on activities defined largely by intent. This peculiarity was largely due to a similar dual-use dilemma: the inability to convincingly distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate research and development based on observable criteria.  

We are now in the early stages of the age of biotechnology. The forecasted growth of this field due to the convergence of new tools and knowledge will power the future economy. The dual-use issues attendant to these capabilities being used globally by researchers on a scale from the individual to the state is perhaps especially pressing now. How can we frame this problem and thereby our policy options? How can the United States best manage the dual-use dilemma in this area and others? 

Speaker Bio

Dr. Stacy Okutani has over 15 years of experience working in the biodefense and biosecurity areas for DoD, DHS, and DHHS. She currently works in the DHS Science & Technology Directorate as part of the Office of Science and Engineering. Previously, Dr. Okutani worked for several years as a senior advisor in the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense. In that role, she helped oversee the DoD's efforts to develop and field medical countermeasures to chemical and biological threats. She served as the office lead to the interagency working group that developed the 2018 National Biodefense Strategy. Her publications have addressed issues related to biosurveillance and biodefense.  

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