Magazine article National Defense

Researchers Use DNA to Thwart Biological Threats

Magazine article National Defense

Researchers Use DNA to Thwart Biological Threats

Article excerpt

Biologists at the University of Maryland are working on software that will improve the detection of harmful microbes and bacteria in DNA.

The university's Institute for Advanced Computer Studies is working with the Fraunhofer Center for Experimental Software Engineering, Signature Science LLC, ATUM and Macromoltek to develop technology that can accurately detect potentially harmful pathogens in DNA sequences, said Todd Treangen, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland. These risks may lead to biological threats and bacterial viruses, he said. The project is managed by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, and the Maryland researchers are subcontracted to Signature Science, according to a news release.

"IARPA is interested in this. Their role here is to help prevent the accidental or intentional creation of a biological threat," Treangen said.

Although this software has the potential for multiple applications, it could be used by DNA screening companies that create custom microbes, such as Ginkgo Bioworks, he explained. The current screening process used by these companies is a "good starting point," he said. …

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