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NIST inks partnership to put safety at the intersection of AI and genetic research

The federal government has taken a significant step forward in addressing potential risks arising from the intersection of two cutting-edge technologies: artificial intelligence (AI) and biotechnology.

In a move aimed at enhancing safety measures, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has partnered with the nonprofit Engineering Biology Research Consortium. Their collaboration focuses on developing strategies to prevent the misuse of advanced AI in synthesizing DNA and RNA, the essential building blocks of life. Synthetic nucleic acids, created outside of cells through chemical processes, play vital roles in various biotechnological applications, from medical therapies to agricultural research.

Following President Joe Biden’s executive order on AI issued in October 2023, this partnership is tasked with establishing industry standards, best practices, and guidance for nucleic acid synthesis. The objective is to assemble stakeholders to design the necessary framework ensuring safety and security in this domain.

Through joint research efforts, NIST and the Engineering Biology Research Consortium will engage with industry and stakeholders to create safeguards against potential risks associated with deploying AI in genetic material synthesis. NIST Director Laurie Locascio emphasized the importance of this collaboration, stressing that while the technology holds great promise, it’s essential to implement safeguards to protect public safety.

Recognizing both biotechnology and artificial intelligence as emerging technologies, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy aims to balance innovation promotion with the need to uphold human rights and national security as the Biden administration navigates these complex fields.

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