Assessing Synthetic Delivery Vehicles for Genetic Element Delivery

December, 2020
IDA document: D-20495
FFRDC: Systems and Analyses Center
Type: Documents
Division: Science and Technology Division , Science, Systems and Sustainment Division
Michael S. Finnin, Katherine I. Fisher See more authors
Exploiting the natural abilities of viruses to deliver payloads into cells and using genetic tools to integrate into the genome are frequent technologies that are used for gene therapy. There are technical limitations to these technologies for therapeutic purposes, and there are open research efforts to develop synthetic vectors to compensate for these technical challenges of natural vectors. Several nanotechnological approaches and synthetic biological approaches have been proposed that have become efficient genetic delivery vectors. This technology is of dual-use concern because it could be used to deliver non-therapeutic genetic payloads that could conceivably be used for the generation of new biothreats. Are these technologies robust enough to be used for bioterror/biowarfare applications by an adversary? A synthetic vector would be essentially novel and the signatures for such novel threats would not be known beforehand. Are we able to detect synthetic or nanotech vectors carrying biothreat agents? IDA reviewed the open literature to assess the synthetic vector technologies available to deliver genetic elements to cells.