Mitigating catastrophic biorisks | Kevin Esvelt

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.

This talk was taken from EA Global Asia and Pacific 2020. Click here to watch the talk with the PowerPoint presentation.

Reducing global catastrophic biological risks | Jaime Yassif

Jaime discusses NTI’s new report, “Preventing Global Catastrophic Biological Risks”. In February 2020, during the Munich Security Conference, NTI convened senior leaders from around the world for a scenario-based tabletop exercise designed to identify gaps in global capabilities to prevent and respond to high-consequence biological events. The report summarizes the exercise and provides recommendations from the organizers.

Jaime Yassif is a senior fellow for global biological policy and programs at NTI. She is currently leading several major biosecurity projects, with a particular focus on reducing global catastrophic biological risks.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working to protect our lives, livelihoods, environment and quality of life now and for future generations from the growing risk of catastrophic attacks from weapons of mass destruction and disruption (WMDD)—nuclear, biological, radiological, chemical and cyber. Founded in 2001 by Sam Nunn and philanthropist Ted Turner, NTI is guided by a prestigious, international board of directors. Joan Rohlfing serves as president.

This talk was taken from EA Student Summit 2020. Click here to watch the talk with the PowerPoint presentation.