In a world now painfully aware of pandemics, with ever-increasing access to autonomous biological agents, how can we help channel society’s response to COVID-19 to minimize the risk of deliberate misuse? Using the challenge of securing DNA synthesis as an example, Kevin outlines the key norms and incentives governing biotechnology, lays out potential strategies for reform, and suggests ways in which thoughtful individuals might help safely and credibly discuss and mitigate biorisks without spreading information hazards.
Kevin Michael Esvelt is an American biologist. He is currently an assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab and leads the Sculpting Evolution group. After receiving a B.A. in chemistry and biology from Harvey Mudd College, he completed his PhD work at Harvard University as a Hertz Fellow. Esvelt developed phage assisted continuous evolution (PACE) during his PhD as a graduate student in David R. Liu’s laboratory. As a Wyss Technology Fellow, Esvelt was involved with the development of gene drive technology. He focuses on the bioethics and biosafety of gene drives. In 2016, Esvelt was named an Innovator Under 35 by MIT Technology Review.