Synthesis Screening Workshop

Securing Bioproduction against an Evolving Threat Landscape

Friday, March 22, 2024
Hopkins Bloomberg Center
Rooms 426, 428, 430
555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC

Zoom link will be provided to everyone who registers as a virtual attendee

Advances in AI are changing the threat landscape in many fields, including in the field of biology. With AI assisted design tools, the complexity and obfuscation potential of the synthetic biological materials is expected to increase. Conversely, the same AI advances can be deployed to help screen DNA/RNA synthesis requests before they can be used for malicious purposes. This workshop seeks insight on current and future advances that will shape both the threat and countermeasure landscapes and prepare the community for the changing threat landscape. The workshop seeks perspectives from academia, industry, and government. 


Short talks based on abstract submissions (10-20 Minutes)

Discussions / breakout group topics:

  1. Improving data resources supporting risk estimation
    • How to define a threat or Sequence of Concern?
    • How to keep pace with AI advancements (both taking advantage positively but also protecting against new threats)? 
    • What datasets are useful for training models and how do any inaccuracies in the data affect the resulting systems?
    • Who should maintain these resources? With what money?
    • Which resources can be shared internationally? If some cannot be shared, how do we maintain screening parity in the face of discrepant data access?  
  2. Improving algorithmic screening
    • Creating tools for safe, secure, and trustworthy biodesign
    • Development of efficient algorithms for oligo pool screening
    • How to keep pace with AI advancements (both taking advantage positively but also protecting against new threats)?
    • What is the appropriate level of per-base spending the market can bear?
    • Should/could governments subsidize screening costs?
    • Would government involvement in screening costs create concern for non-US customers? 
  3. Improving human decision-making
    • What visualization strategies are most effective at enabling rapid decision-making?
    • How can visualization strategies reduce reviewer fatigue?
    • How can organizations train and test staff to achieve uniform outcomes in screens across reviewers?
    • How can AI help reduce risks?
  4. Improving governing regulatory policies
    • What useful data standards, standard methodologies, and tools can help create and verify the performance of synthesis screening systems?
    • What role should governments play in determining the regulatory status of AI-designed constructs?
  5. Cyber/data security nexus
    • Cyberbiosecurity
    • How to enforce cyber requirements in bio labs?
    • How do you protect the sequence information that is being screened?


Friday, March 22, 2024

Date / Time (EDT)Activity / TitleAuthor(s) / Speaker(s)
0830 – 0930Registration
0930 Р0945Welcome Organizing Committee
0945 – 0950Opening Remarks Dr. Gopal Sarma, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)
0950 – 1000Strengthening Gene Synthesis ScreeningMelissa Hopkins, Health Security Policy Advisor & Assistant Scientist, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security
1000 – 1015Discussion
1015 – 1030Coffee break
1030 – 1130Talks
Defining and disclosing sequences of concern: perspectives from IBBISTessa Alexanian and Nicole Wheeler
Securing Nucleic Acid Synthesis: Customer screening as a generalizable capabilityKyle Webster
A Conserved Residue Knowledge (CoRK) Approach to Developing AI-Proof Function of Concern SignaturesJacob Beal and Cassie Bryan
1130 – 1230Working Session 1
1230 – 1330Lunch
1330 – 1430Talks
The Importance of Functional Annotation for Understanding Sequence BiothreatsGene Godbold, Pascale Gaudet, Matthew Scholz, Anthony Kappell, Todd Treangen and Krista Ternus
DNA Security for Digital BiosecuritySterling Sawaya
Trustworthy Additive Biomanufacturing of Human Tissues in Adversarial EnvironmentsSaman Zonouz, Nicholas Guise, and Vahid Serpooshan
1430 – 1530Working Session 2
1530 – 1545Coffee break
1545 – 1630Discussion and Future Plans
1630 – 1700Closing remarks

Abstract Submissions

We will select short talks based on 1-2 page abstracts (format of your choice). Abstracts will be compiled and distributed as a product of the meeting.
Submission site: EasyChair
Deadline: Friday, March 8, 2024 (if you need an extension please get in touch)


There is no cost to attend the workshop.

Register here

Organizing committee: Aaron Adler, Joel Bader, James Diggans, Helen Scott, Kemper Talley, Nicole Wheeler, Fusun Yaman