Khalisah L. Zulkefli, Tan Jaymi, Sandra López-Vergès, John H. Malone, Alexander Kagansky, Abhi Veerakumarasivam1, Bartlomiej Kolodziejczyk and Clarissa Rios Rojas submitted evidence for the Biological Security Strategy call for evidence from the Department of Health and Social Care, and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
Rapid technological advances in genome editing and synthetic biology have created an unprecedented ability for science to be conducted outside traditional research institutions. This open science movement, known as do-it-yourself biology (DIY Bio) has gained significant traction and has grown exponentially in the last decade with over 160 active groups and thousands of DIY Biologists from a range of backgrounds worldwide. As a result, the movement has become a platform for biotechnology entrepreneurship and an instrument for discovery-based science education and outreach (Kolodziejczyk 2017; Landrain et al. 2013). The COVID-19 pandemic has also further emphasised the potential positive impact that the DIY Bio community can bring towards enhancing the innovative capacity of the larger scientific enterprise. As DIY biologists and scientists from traditional institutions share experimental data and designs on various platforms including online forums in response to the current pandemic, it is becoming evident that the scientific ecosystem has much to gain by being more inclusive. However, the inherent fast-evolving, open and relatively unregulated nature of DIY Bio creates substantial safety and security concerns. Here, we discuss the benefits and risks of DIY Bio and how multiple stakeholders, especially the government and academia, might work together with the DIY Bio community to co-develop global and locally contextualized policies, regulatory frameworks and action plans for maximum benefit and minimum risk.