Currently the vast majority of DNA synthesis is performed by service companies or by in-house central facilities in universities and large companies. The DNA synthesis industry provides researchers with custom DNA at such low cost and with such convenience that almost all synthesis work takes place in a relatively small number of facilities. A request for DNA synthesis requires that the customer provide the sequence of the molecule. This creates the opportunity to monitor or screen input sequences for matches to a database of pathogen sequences. Finding a positive match at the time the order was received would allow the vendor to alert the relevant authority and to delay shipment of that DNA. I have written a software package, called BlackWatch, that implements sequence screening. This paper will describe the operation of this system, its current shortcomings and ways that these might be addressed.
Technical Report in support of the Sloan Foundation study on DNA synthesis and governance options.
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