Dawes Centre for Future Crime at UCL


Policy brief: Synthetic biology and future crime

This briefing identifies eight potential crimes enabled by synthetic biology and suggests some preventative measures to address them.

Synthetic biology and future crime infographic
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An accessible version of the policy brief can be downloaded below:


Synthetic biology involves redesigning organisms for useful purposes by engineering them to possess new capabilities. This briefing identifies examples of potential crimes that are or could be enabled by synthetic biology, including cyber-biocrime, and suggests some steps that could be taken to prevent them. For example, the introduction of a National Centre for Biosecurity and Biosafety and a continuous “red-teaming” approach to emerging technology.

A full description of the crimes is available in the systematic review.

Cyberbiosecurity addresses the evolving threat of biotechnology misuse and the emerging risks between cyberspace and biology to develop policies to manage them. In addition to traditional cyber-attacks such as exploitation in unsecured networks and manipulated biological data, cyber-biocrime exploits physical processing involving biological materials that could result in unwanted or dangerous biological outcomes.

Lead researchers:
Mariam Elgabry (UCL Security and Crime Science).

Funder & Key Contributors:
This work was carried out by the Dawes Centre for Future Crime at UCL. This briefing was produced in partnership with Florence Greatrix at UCL STEaPP’s Policy Impact Unit. The research was funded by the Dawes Centre for Future Crime at UCL.

Output type:
Policy briefing.

More details of the research and links to research publications can be found here.