NIST, Nonprofit Research Consortium to Develop Safety Tools for Synthetic Biology to Defend Against Potential Misuse of AI

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Source: NIST

March 8, 2024 | Originally published by NIST on February 16, 2024

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has entered a two-year cooperative research agreement with the nonprofit Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC) to develop screening and safety tools to defend against the potential misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) related to nucleic acid synthesis, a growing field of synthetic biology with great promise but also serious risks.

NIST initiated this collaboration to fulfill a task within the recent Executive Order on Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence that charges multiple agencies — including NIST — with developing standards, best practices, and implementation guides for nucleic acid synthesis, in light of advances in AI. The Executive Order on AI calls on NIST to initiate an effort to engage with industry and other stakeholders to develop safeguards to defend against potential misuse of AI related to the synthesis of genetic material. NIST will work with EBRC to identify best practices and policies to ensure public safety.

“This agreement is the first step toward promoting safe research in engineering biology as tasked to NIST under the recent AI executive order,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Laurie E. Locascio. “The promise of this technology is immense, but clearly safeguards are needed to protect the public, and this is an important first step toward creating them.”

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