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Anticipating emerging biotechnology threats: A case study of CRISPR

  • Kathleen M. Vogel (a1) and Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley (a2)

This article discusses the contingencies and complexities of CRISPR. It outlines key problems regarding off-target effects and replication of experimental work that are important to consider in light of CRISPR’s touted ease of use and diffusion. In light of literature on the sociotechnical dimensions of the life sciences and biotechnology and literature on former bioweapons programs, this article argues that we need more detailed empirical case studies of the social and technical factors shaping CRISPR and related gene-editing techniques in order to better understand how they may be different from other advances in biotechnology — or whether similar features remain. This information will be critical to better inform intelligence practitioners and policymakers about the security implications of new gene-editing techniques.

Corresponding author
Correspondence: Kathleen M. Vogel, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland at College Park, 3039 Van Munching Hall, College Park, MD 20742. Email:
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