APL Forum: Biotechnology for the Nation – Where Tomorrow?

APL Forum: Biotechnology for the Nation – Where Tomorrow?


This is the point at which I think we
just sort of step back and relax and reflect on so many of the remarkable
discussions and you know speeches that we’ve heard earlier today and talk about
what are the takeaways from today and what do we what should we be focused on
for the future and what I thought I’d do is just give sort of my thoughts of the
reflections of some of what’s happened today and a couple of takeaways for me
at least from my particular parochial perspective and part of that I think has
just been it’s remarkable to hear the different perspectives from industry
from former government whether it’s operational or policy and from
scientists that are working on this in academia or otherwise and it’s it’s
interesting just to hear where people put their focus and how they think about
these issues and the language that they use in these contexts and I find that it
will be interesting even on this panel you see a fair amount of variety to just
hear what others are thinking about as the takeaways given this sort of rich
conversation across sectors so in my view I think when we started off with
John in the morning who really gave us a sense of the potential of biotechnology
and a sense of just how quickly in the last several decades we’ve seen a ramp
up of this evolution in effective how the science is moving and what it could
mean for the future and how much it could change our lives one of the things
that I took from that discussion was really the fact that in many ways it’s
breaking out of its own discipline and some of the most momentous sort of
revolutions that can occur are actually in other disciplines as a consequence of
biotechnology and therefore how important it is to really think about
this in an interdisciplinary way so whether it’s the impossible burger I
think that was one of his things you know or it’s insulin or its some of the
other things that we’ve heard during the day it does seem as if in many ways to
really realize some of the potential of what we’re learning we actually need to
break out of our silos as somebody said recently in one of our panels and
actually be able to talk about these things from different disciplinary
perspectives to kind of issue pilot issues spot and
understand what the potential is across the board so that would be one thing
that I saw it from that discussion I also thought it was it was very
interesting Justin frankly just talking about the
national security implications and we also heard that from Jim I think in in
his talk and then obviously when we were with Bob’s panel talking about the
future of war and the battleground for the future and some of the things that
we’re looking at there and the national security space is obviously an area that
I’m familiar with and it does tend to be fairly dark and gloomy and an area where
we talk about you know sort of all of the possible ways in which this could
actually be an enormous threat to us but it also I think was revealing how many
places where people saw an opportunity to use the technology to really advance
our ability to defend ourselves in a variety of different ways and even
further than that in foreign policy or in other ways to sort of advance areas
of whether it’s intelligence collection or its some other aspect of agriculture
or other things that could be done that can have a national security implication
at the end of the day but otherwise might be for additional purposes and
then listening to Megan I thought it was remarkable just to sort of get a sense
from you about kind of the best practices that you can have in
developing policy and ideas in this area and really liked your sort of human
practices if I get this right and the sort of development of safety and
security and also the sort of governing networks that you can look at and you
know bringing in ethics and all of the different sort of guidelines that we
need to be thinking about and the other kinds of discipline not just substantive
but they sort of cross-cutting issues that we need to think about as we go
down this road and and then from the last kind of life to say hey I thought I
learned that basically we need to go as fast as we can possibly go while being
thoughtful so I feel as if that that we should definitely stick with us and not
to mention the fact that we could you know some of this could lead to our
extinction and also that you like a Tesla 3 but we’ll put that to the side
for now but what I really ended up taking away from this is I think
something that I suspect many of you already you know believed to be the case
which is that we need to be spending more
I’m focusing on biotechnology I think at the highest levels of government
decision-making and integrating that expertise into our decision-making and
not just for the government but also for the private sector and for academia and
across the board in a variety of different ways because it really doesn’t
get nearly as much attention as things like very even AI for example right now
and when I think about that from my parochial perspective what I think about
is so I one of my jobs was being a deputy national security adviser which
means you basically chair the deputies committee in the National Security
Council and the and Bob was with me in this period and one of the things that I
thought was interesting is I think during the last two years of the
administration we had the first deputies committees that were actually on things
like genome editing and biotechnology issues it took a while for that to break
through in a sense to that level of decision-making and when you do that I
mean there’s sort of a variety of different ways in which you could think
about decision making being focused and integrated in this space it could be
because you you want to focus in on a strategy for a particular aspect of the
technology because it is having some disruptive effect and disruptive doesn’t
always mean bad but it means things are changing at a rapid rate essentially and
when we would have those discussions I mean I think actually after the genome
editing one in particular I got a few emails that really glad that was really
an interesting meeting because you’re trying to pull in so many different
stakeholders and it was really challenging it was you know what are
sort of science folks NIH was there HHS we’ve Human Services and so on Health
and Human Services variety of different actors you had people obviously from the
national security community you also had folks that were interested
in it from the economic and financial perspective and in those types of
meetings so not per se the genome editing one but other types of meetings
that you would have deputies on that related to technology and certain kind
of cross-cutting issues I would find that there were sort of classic paradigm
questions that would come up so one of them would be
national security perspective there are folks who will be thinking about
obviously the threats that the particular advancement in science or
technology could lead to and there are concerns about classification I mean I
think you know was mentioned already by Jason there’s some things that you may
want to keep secret and private in this context if you’re a scientist and you’re
looking at it from the other perspective and you see the remarkable opportunities
that this science and technology may afford you and you want to promote
development of it in your space you generally don’t want to have it be
classified right and it’s not that you don’t care about the national security
issues but there are a lot of challenges that that presents to you not the least
of which are that agencies like Health and Human Services for example don’t
have a lot of people that have classified you know that have clearances
basically that then can operate in that space and so that would be a classic
issue that you would try to manage in a way that made sense across the
interagency and thinking about it another challenge that it seemed to me
you know was it as sort of another space that we would find is actually thinking
through how do you actually how do you break down the different ways in which
the strategy should be implemented throughout the US government so what I
mean by that is you may think that as a consequence of this new technology or
development that you actually need to change your broader national security
policy right though one of the things that just mentioned was things about
detection for pandemics for example right and frequently that would require
and I think you mentioned this in your discussion international cooperation and
collaboration and the more of that that you have the better and getting
international cooperation and collaboration in an incident is really
hard what you want to do is build the mechanisms well before then and that
means putting a lot of investment of time and resources into actually
creating a mechanism prior to the actual crisis that occurs and that might be
something that you want to elevate to a certain level within your policy because
you want to spend the resources on it you need high-level attention to
actually get those mechanisms set up in different governments and develop that
Network and that’s the kind of thing that it might just change your overall
policy another thing though you might think about is just do I want to
implement the policy that we have in a different way in other words do I want
to focus more on collection through plants as opposed to collection through
something else or you know if I thought about a different way to implement
policy that’s going to be far more effective as a consequence of this
technology but the fact is that having people in the room who understand the
technology and who understand the developments and the science makes such
an enormous difference because they’re the ones who are going to be able to
tell you you can actually do this more efficiently in a different way you can
make a difference by having it done this way and that’s very challenging when you
have meetings like we used to be in where you really try to have so many
just only a few people in these discussions and you really can’t have a
very unwieldy number and you you sort of want to be able to talk through things
but it’s critical to actually seeing that get integrated into your your work
and then the final one I put in is just how do we organize ourselves as a
government and that’s been touched on quite a bit during these panels and I
find that to be one of the most vexing access aspects of the work because you
know I think Bob as you said it’s not just in this area that we have a
challenge it’s really across the board and innovation I think it’s very
challenging and it’s something where you see administration after administration
I think secretary mattis’s you know as mindful of this as secretary Carter was
and others I develop mechanisms to get around the system in a sense instead of
actually revolutionising the system so that it can promote innovation and that
is very challenging do we need to actually wait for you know the sort of
9/11 moment or the Sputnik moment or something like that to really change the
system in a way that makes a difference and and I do think that’s one of the big
things that we really need to break the code on because I think both getting in
the kind of expertise that we need and the government on these various issues
whether it’s AI or biotechnology or other spaces where we need that kind of
technology we’re not going to be able to attract people if we don’t actually help
them you know sort of use their expertise in a meaningful way when they
get into government and see progress as a consequence and I think that’s a just
one of the greatest challenges that we’re facing then I don’t have very good
answers to but I do think it’s something we just need to continue to elevate
to say it’s unacceptable for us to operate this way because we’re going to
end up behind regardless of whether you’re focused on the opportunities or
the challenges that are available to you through these issues but I want to hear
from others obviously and I will stop there I did want to say one other thing
before I do it actually which is just that in those discussions another issue
that I found very challenging and particularly in biotechnology is the
ethics piece because there really isn’t anybody in the government in a situation
like we would have at the level of decision-making that we were in that was
responsible for bringing up the ethics piece and yet you know that it’s
critical and so we would find different ways to try to inject it into the
conversation but I do think that that’s something even from a decision-making
perspective particularly in this space it would be useful to think about
innovations for how it is that we can actually inject ethics and kind of best
practices into the discussion in a more effective way so that we’re managing
that as part of our decision-making so okay I’m Bob what are your thoughts
coming out of the day well first of all it’s just been a terrific day great
panels great discussion thanks to John Hopkins
our APL for setting this up you know the government has a hard time where the DoD
has a hard time prioritizing and the first time we announced for example the
third offset was November 2014 secretary Hagel announced it at the
Reagan defense forum in November of 2014 ai and autonomy is going to be the key
capability the department is going to move on and here it is 2018 and we are
just starting to get organized biotechnology is so far down the list of
priorities of the Department of Defense right now that the question is how do
you get it elevated up so that the decision-makers in the department and
the government understand just how consequential it will be
so that’s the first thing really trying to get leadership to have the attention
and I think people said it in a lot of different ways look somebody said on the
last panel dual tech not dual use technologies never go the way you expect
and in a really hard competition you’ve got to take risks and you really have to
talk about the reward versus the risks and we don’t do that enough so Google
for example said we’re not going to support anything that has to do with
project maven because it might be used to harm life but they created enormous
moral hazard for themselves because they didn’t talk about the thousands of lives
that this might save so it really gets on the biotechnology side I really liked
what Jason said protection has got to be number one and you got to go as fast as
you can Bill Gates said there are only two things that are likely going to kill
more than 10 million people it’s either going to be a pandemic or a bio
engineered bio weapon that’s it unless you get into a thermonuclear war and you
know all bets are off but the only other thing that’s really going to cause the
deaths of 10 million people or one of those two things and so in my view you
go as fast on the protection side as you absolutely can and you have national
Commission’s like we now have a National Commission on the AI we say Congress
you’re responsible for setting the ethical and legal and moral boundaries
and establish the red lines that researchers can’t cross or establish
some thing where they can come to you and ask for a waiver but the key thing
about this is I mean just imagine the Cold War you know if we had said all
nuclear weapons there’s just what would happen if the terrorists got a hold of a
nuclear weapon well I’m telling you right now if we had stopped ourselves
from doing nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union had a monopoly on nuclear
weapons Cold War wouldn’t have gone the way it did it would have ended much
differently and you have to say when you’re in a competition how are you
going to stay with them so one of the things I thought
about after Jim stavridis is great talk was maybe you go to NATO and say let’s
start going after pandemics as an alliance and you talk about the
risk/reward and get the international community focused on a problem that they
are worried about themselves and they might establish the limits that all of
us would do so you’re trying to build those as you go along rather than after
but the one thing about biotechnology is there’ll be a biotechnology Three Mile
Island just like there’s going to be an AI Three Mile Island the AI will
probably affect hundreds of people say maybe we put AI on our air traffic
control system and it makes a mistake and god forbid and airplane crashes so
200 souls on board but you make a mistake in biotechnology you might tell
thousands so the question is you have to say what is the risk or reward how are
you going to go forward I really like defense dominant go-fast offensive
dominant go very carefully and my last point is look the reason why I wouldn’t
put money into super super humans is because we’re gonna have super machines
that will take the human off the battlefield CBO says by 2030 the average
cost for soldier sailor Airman marine is gonna be $200,000 we’re going to
unmanned systems so we can put more money into making the humans better and
faster and stronger but it’ll be a better deal to replace them with
machines and because we value human life the Russians they’re demócrata mocker
demographics are terrible so they’re gonna go you know they’ve already said
we want 30% of all our force structure robots and the Chinese every single
young man and woman in the Chinese military is what we would consider to be
a sole surviving child and an Eastern culture the child the children take care
of the elderly so all three of the competitors want to take humans off the
battlefield so instead of going wild and trying to make 10% of us smart and I’d
like to volunteer to be in that 10% but you know right now the defense really is
the thing that we got to get everybody worried about thank you so if we start
thinking strategically about the future you know I think what we’ve all been
talking about today is how can we change the intensity of conflict how can we
change the pace of conflict and how does biotechnology or ole in all that and you
know unlike many of the other existing technologies that are out there
biotechnology has the capacity to take broad threats off the table and if we
just use the infectious disease side of things right today a lot of us when we
think about infectious disease we think it’s kind of like one-off solutions it
doesn’t have to be that way we can design countermeasures that take many
pathogens off the table whether they’re natural or they’re engineered and I
think that we need to continue to work together to think that way and to
implement strategies such that we can’t change this intensity and pace now
what’s missing what’s the missing ingredient and all of that is in the
work that we do right now biotech is still fragmented we don’t often develop
integrated biotechnology systems for a wide variety of uses whether it’s
intelligence or you know any application space that we may see fit so again that
to me that’s the next major step that we can do as a community is is try to build
those integrated systems and it’s not just the technology alone right building
that integration it’s how we work across the interagency how different branches
of the DoD and beyond implement that as their concept of operations so that we
do have a way of not only defending our homeland but also how we work
internationally one other just a brief thought about you know kind of that
vision of the future we’ve been talking solely technology today but we should
recognize that biotechnology also has an economic argument associated with it
okay and again our adversaries are squarely looking at the economic side of
it playing the economic long game I would say that if we are successful at
building biotech in the national security landscape we should foster
building industries all right so outside of the DoD and national security build
these industries that can create opportunities for our country so that we
can mature the technology so that we can develop in ways that we may have never
thought in just the national security side of things and then ultimately that
that work can feed back into the national security landscape and we can
have that much more of an impact so bringing those pieces together I think
these are the next set of challenges and you know I’m really thrilled to think
about what we could possibly do in all of this base’s first of all it’s just
been a really wonderful forum today and I’m really grateful for the opportunity
I wanted to offer a few things that I really liked about our discussions today
and pair them with a few things I wish had been part of the conversation and so
just to begin something I really liked is I really liked hearing about the very
variety of interests and the variety of different mission spaces that are
represented here and to your point about you know a key part of this is really
developing forums to exchange views and what our priorities and just learn about
what what we each are doing is important and I wish that more of the biotech
community which is vast and very diverse was part of these conversations and not
just on one-off conversations but on ongoing detailed work that is required
to get into exactly what we mean when we’re talking about some of these
conundrums and so really prioritizing that as a project and not just a a
conversation I think that’s going to be critical for what is
a clear part of the ethics of this which is communicating our justifications for
what we are doing I think there is a risk of what another colleague has
called mutually assured misinterpretation which we are often
headed for in this space second thing is that I really liked that ethics was a
really integrated part of this conversation and it wasn’t just brought
up in one conversation but in many but what I wish is that we hadn’t fallen
into a few traps that are similar in many other ethics conversations traps
like claims of inevitability that close down
conversations over the idea that we just place one line at one time rather than
evolving those time those those lines or even questioning the concept of lines
also I actually don’t like the term ethical legal and societal implications
because it’s really ethical legal societal aspects right it’s not just
downstream it’s how we do things that is important and these are integrated along
the way and they also have to do with making hard hard and smart choices about
not just what we don’t do but what we do how do we prioritize and I think that is
key across these conversations that would have to make you know really
difficult choices about where is biotechnology poised to make a
difference and maybe where it isn’t would you leads to my last like and wish
I really like that we are talking about this technology right it is it is a
powerful and important technology that cuts across many domains and creating
forums like this where we can elevate the conversation is key but I wish that
we didn’t again fall into that trap of thinking it’s a panacea it’s not it’s
not probably our ultimate peril either I have a colleague who says boring biotech
is the best and that may be where we see a lot of the industry developing the
economy’s the flourishing that we hope from this technology and and lastly I
just wish that I saw you all more often and we do this again thank you we’ll do
this tomorrow so I’m really struck by Bob’s
observation that biology really isn’t sort of the same category of of
lethality as thermonuclear weapons and I think I can’t remember
being in a government meeting in which that observation was expressed and I
think it needs to be expressed more frequently I wish that we devoted even
maybe 10% of the attention to biology as we pay to say nuclear weapons and
thinking about what are our models for deterrence what are the kinds of
international collaborations that we can undertake to increase security build
confidence across competitors and how do we pursue a pathway for advances in
biology that ultimately accomplish an enlargement of our economy and human
flourishing while avoiding some of the darker scenarios that have been
described through the day since I’m sort of a debbie downer by temperament and
sort of consumed more by the things that I try to reconcile how to manage my
anxiety budget around I mean I think in general industry and academia will be
great advocates for sort of finding the benefits from biotechnology and to the
greatest possible extent the policy world should try to get out of their way
except in cases where safety and security for the public are at stake
this is a really hard challenge for biology in ways that it’s not for a lot
of other technologies and there are a few unique
after buttes of biology that struck me through the day
that Presents special challenges so one is its self-replicating so unlike you
know other technologies where you leave it in a closet you come back a month
later in the closet there’s still just one of those technologies that’s a nice
thing you can say about nuclear weapons for example is they don’t self replicate
that’s really good you know nuclear strategy nuclear
deterrence would be a lot harder if nuclear weapons did self-replicate
another challenge is the dual use characteristics of biology make it a
really hard national intelligence problem the characteristics of malicious
use of biology or not very easy to distinguish from benign use and the
targets for intelligence are dis analogous to most other targets say if
you’re looking at military technologies in a given that most of the innovation
is not happening in in government labs but it’s happening in industry and
academia that’s another aspect that makes it difficult is that there’s
commercial dominance here the innovators in biology are not traditional defense
contractors they’re not organizations that have experience and working with
policy makers so and we we don’t honestly have many strong levers I mean
outside of sort of the FDA regulatory system but in a lot of these other
biotechnology areas the regulatory law is very murky the sort of traditional
levers of governance are in many cases untested and the the the totality of
funds and innovation that are going on is is in the private sector a last
challenge is the cost asymmetry between right now where we are on beneficial
uses of biology and malign uses of biology so to give one example a couple
years ago a couple of biologists were able to synthesize a pox virus de novo
for $100,000 whereas creating a new vaccine
for a pox virus would cost around two billion dollars so the cost asymmetry is
around ten thousand fold between offense and defense and that asymmetry is
actually increased that is it’s getting more expensive to produce drugs and
vaccines while getting cheaper to produce novel pathogens so my two
takeaways at least in thinking sort of on about the dark side of this is one we
need to find ways of radically and quickly decreasing that cost asymmetry
first by figuring out new approaches to medical countermeasure development and
manufacturing and regulatory approval perhaps the most expensive piece of that
I mean most of that two billion dollars is spent in clinical trials so we need
to think of ways of of shortening and reducing the cost of medical
countermeasure development that would take care of about half of my anxiety
budget right there because if we can prevent the kinds of bioterror or bio
error that result in pandemics that kill potentially hundreds of millions or
billions of people that would be a huge win and it would have sort of no regrets
in terms of being able to combat natural infectious diseases the other one that
would keep me up at night is that there could be malicious engineering within
food systems and environmental systems that are subtle that take a long time to
progress and detect and we need to find methods of cost-effective monitoring to
detect those kinds of changes before they present catastrophes I’ve got
questions for each of you but as I asked them if anybody else wants to jump in on
it please do but I for Bob I would do you think we’ve reached a singularity at
this stage what’s your perspective on that no I do not I disagree with Jim on
this singularity occurs when there’s something there’s some event that
becomes clear to everyone in my view and if you’re debating
whether you’re at the singularity you’re not there is no singularity so I don’t
think we’re there I think Jim is right we’re going so fast
and these technologies and so fast and artificial intelligence and digitization
that it’s becoming very murky and the risks go up that we don’t understand
exceed the technology I think one of the panelists said sometimes the technology
outraces our ability to really understand what’s happening so I think
we’re kind of in that in the pre singularity stage you talked about sort
of the the need for integration you know across the agencies and and so on and
obviously this is one of those things that’s sort of the perennial right like
how do we get better integration Center and one of the things that at least I
experienced and I don’t know if you feel this way as well it’s frequently what
ends up happening is a lot of agencies sort of find creative ways to you know
bring in technology in certain areas never as much as they should or could in
some respects but but do so on an entrepreneurial basis and then don’t
necessarily share just because there aren’t sort of clear mechanisms by which
to do so what they’re doing in one space which actually could help across the
enterprise in a sense do you have views on things that could be done that would
help with that that we should be thinking about
absolutely so let me just share with you a few examples of ways that we’ve been
successful in building bridges across the interagency to try to get that
integrated system to take these threats off the table so so here’s to so the
current Ebola flare-up that’s happening right now in Africa we’ve been part of
the VRC 1:1 for antibodies that are actually in play in Africa right now we
work not only with the NIH to explore that space but we’ve also worked with JP
EO in order to help on the manufacturing side of things
and then actually get those antibodies manufactured down in a lot flow Florida
to create more doses for the people that are there now again those few sentences
that I just said it kind of sounded seamless it was seamless because we all
had a vested interest in taking Ebola off the table so we said okay we’re all
in this together what can we all contribute to do that and we’ve signed
agreements in record amounts of time to make that happen
we’ve put money on the line in records record amounts of time to actually make
it happen okay and again I think the core of building those bridges is having
a common problem that we all want to solve let me give you another one so we
just formed a new agreement with Barda okay so they have a huge problem with
drug-resistant bacteria so I said okay we know you have that problem we may
have a technology these gene encoded kind of antibodies we think we can come
up with a trio of antibodies that can be effective against drug-resistant
bacteria it’s great we have a common problem that we’re gonna go after let’s
form a formal agreement between our two agencies let’s put equal amount some
money on the line to actually bring that together and then let’s move out and get
that technology to the people that need it the most I think that as an inner
agency if we can just tear down the barriers decide on the problems that we
want to go after and then just go and do it that’s that’s how we we lead by
example yeah okay or said than done right but it does happen under certain
circles ways to say yes to doing good ideas and that’s the spirit of it yeah
that’s true so Megan for you I was thinking just having come out of this
meeting that you described with all of these kids there were thousands is that
right yeah who are competing and who clearly have an interest in
biotechnology and in this field how how do you get them involved in the kind of
work that you described right like we need to see more of these
biotechnologists essentially integrated across the field to be contributing to
society in a variety of different ways in being part of these conversations
what do you think we should be doing you actually don’t need to convince
the people who are a part of this you know competition and part of this
enterprise that they want to solve problems right you talk about these
shared problems with there’s a lot of interest in figuring out how to use new
technologies to solve the many problems we confront in the world and and so in
many ways it’s actually just giving them permission to ask the types of difficult
questions that aren’t just technology questions but they have to do with the
purpose of the technology the process by which we develop technology and then
when you give them an award and recognition for that work when you
develop incentives and a place to work then they naturally get very excited
about this so you know in many cases they describe this being you know their
favorite part of of their projects because they get to explore their roles
and responsibilities in the world they also just get to go meet the end users
right so more of the conversations like we had today but in many places all over
the world to find out you know where is biotechnology best position to
contribute in a particular setting with a particular community and so I think
that we can maybe take a lesson there and that you know the particulars of the
situation really matter and so we have to develop these experiments in sort of
innovation with ethical questions on that sort of slack that we’ve described
in other mission spaces we have to be willing to experiment in how we ask
these questions over time so it’s really not a lot of convincing ya know but it
but it there’s plenty for us to do to try to help to create those scenarios
for them in a sense and I think that seems like the responsibility that we
have in a way I think so you know you asked the question before about you know
there there’s not an ethicist in the room in certain places right but this is
these are the questions we all ask us as citizens right we’re always asking what
is it that we’re representing and making these decisions and so we have to be
used to you know asking those questions and having peers in the room who have
different interests that can be represented the incentives get a little
you know more tricky once you exit and can’t just
give a sticker or a t-shirt right but as long as we keep those questions at the
forefront and again realize that answering these questions takes money
and it takes time and it takes people then I think we can you know still move
smartly ahead through with a lot of these technologies yeah okay Jason I’ll
ask you last question and then I’ll turn it over to the audience if we have any
time and but I just was curious you know you mentioned what Tom what Bob said
earlier basically about how biotechnology is as dangerous as
thermonuclear weapons and and you also indicated what I think all of us have
have said in different ways which is that it has not been nearly as
prioritized in decision-making and in discussions as the threat or the
opportunity would seem to call for in many respects right and do you have a
perspective on why that’s the case you know in some ways it’s a really dreaded
topic so I mean in in studies of people’s anxiety and sort of risk
analysis I mean bio is a dreaded topic probably
for like good evolutionary reasons we’re just really afraid of infectious
diseases it’s super creepy and I find it it’s a topic that even creeps people out
in national security settings like there is a kind of dread about talking about
it so I think that’s part of it but I think the other part of it is that we
just haven’t spent the kind of intellectual energy on it that we did
say and thinking about nuclear weapons and the 40s and 50s where we had you
know concentrated think-tank work at Rand and elsewhere thinking about what
the future of nuclear strategy would look like we just had didn’t have that
and as as Bob mentioned I mean the the thinking that we did do about biological
weapons was all burned up and it it made a lot of sense in some ways to try to
remove that record so that it couldn’t end up in the wrong hands but at the
same time we’ve I think failed then to imagine a lot of ways in which biology
can be misused and now we’re sort of learning it from scratch
again by watching foreign biological weapons programs which is not the way
you want to learn thank you we talked about the prioritization you know next
year I could imagine JHU APL having a thing like this where we talked about
quantum computing and we all say quantum computing is the most important thing
and if we lose this competition oh woe is us we’re gonna and then the year
after that we do blockchain the technologists can really help the
government by saying here are the clusters of technologies it’s a risk
because there’s so much going on but if you get bio and AI and quantum for
example if you really concentrate on the Nexus of those three things you’re going
to be kind of okay because right now there’s that we’re in such a
technological tsunami that the department at least the Department of
Defense it’s very difficult for them to say what is the one thing we need to
really concentrate on so technology could help us and say these are the kind
of three or four clusters that you really have to pay attention to so it
was on the other okay it took months or years to detect and appreciate recent
online attacks to social and governance cohesion have we learned anything from
that to help detect or counter potential similar more subtle or softer biology
based attacks here’s one aspect so in the cyber world security came later
right we have an opportunity right now in the biotech space to think about
these kinds of issues early and often and actually build in robustness into
our systems to try to deal with them so so it’s a it’s almost a message of don’t
make that mistake again in the biotech space you know DoD Net assessment
several years ago looked at if there was some sort of low and slow biological
attack you know I’m trying to increase slightly you know the prevalence of
cognitive diseases or you know age-related dementia to get rid of a
already aging national intelligence workforce that sort of thing would you
be able to detect it and I mean the the general conclusion was no because we
don’t have in place the kinds of health monitoring systems that are persistent
and would detect those subtle changes biotech has a lot of champions here how
do we better advocate for its importance among current decision-makers in the
national security space I think this conference is a pretty good start well
you always have regrets I mean I would come up here Christine what I would say
hey to me AI and autonomy is number one and Christine goes I’m not so certain
she never really said hey bio technology’s right up there and I should
have said that observation about two sides of the same coin
came at the national security I mean the deputies committee that you held and a
colleague of mine named Colin call what happened was we had both come from a
debate over AI and we were talking about the same aspects of legal moral and
ethical issues we go to the deputy’s meeting and we were talking about
genomics and it was exactly the same and he made that and so one regret is when I
talk about AI technology I have to really emphasize this two sides of coin
because I really do have come to believe that that’s the case but it’s gonna be
difficult to raise it to the level of the leadership in the department right
now and say hey we really have to clear the decks and go after it I thought on
that one is I you know I think what’s embedded in that question is why is
biotech a a last resort instead of a first option and I think the
responsibility that we have is what does biotech do for the people that are
making decisions and if we can show that it can be a
game-changer at multiple levels or for problems that are important to them then
maybe it will become a first option as instead of a last resort but you know
there’s still work to be done in biotech to get to that point yeah I want to say
I think translating the things that are already here today to the mission space
of those of you who are in the room I think Diane Diaz did a brilliant job at
the opening of the last panel really relating these are not things that are
just in the future there are things that are here they’re often in the you know
in the industrial space and so I think really just spending more time with
those communities walking them in and new new ways like these conversations
are really important I also believe a lot in the types of fellowship type
programs that bring in sort of the the next generation of individuals who are
rising in the ranks to meet each other so that even though this you know
biotech is touching many different places if you know somebody in all of
those different places you can begin to stitch it together and just lastly I’m
very heartened to hear so Colin calls now at at our Center at SESAC and I
think also has been endorsing the you know the power of being able to draw
analogies between these technologies to learn what is similar but also to be
cautious in how far we take those analogies yeah yeah one thing I would
say is just I do think that educating folks in who are interested in going
into policy and into government from the academic perspective on biotechnology is
critical because the more you know about something the more likely you are to
raise it as an issue and then the other piece I’d say that Bob you were very
supportive of this and in our efforts to try to do this with the deputies in
other places but it’s hard trying to focus on the important over the urgent
and that meeting was one of those where we were trying to do that and I think it
does bear fruit and this is one of those areas where unless you’re in the midst
of a particular crisis it’s hard to make the space at that level to actually
begin to have that conversation and I think encouraging and creating space for
discussions like that it is a critical piece of it let me state it in a
different way in the three years I was the deputy secretary I probably attended
5000 meetings on the Middle East and one meeting on biotechnology at the national
level so the urgent yeah day-to-day it really is true it’s yeah
anyway but does it think anything else I think we do we have time for one more
question yeah only when cyber was adopted beyond Electrical / computing
was a transformational to life and conflict have we obtained
transformational impacts of biotech what are impacts to conflict and how can we
build a necessary support to prepare I mean by it so there’s a nice paper where
Rob Carlson tried to estimate the overall size of the Bioeconomy these
numbers are sort of notoriously difficult to get because it sort of
touches so many parts of the economy of different ways but at that point you
know it talked about you know bio is growing faster than the economy as a
whole and so you know it is it is with us
today right and the way we heal ourselves and the way we feed ourselves
I mean the way we make the things that make our lives better and so it very
much is there and so in many cases like the the title of today’s discussion
about here today where tomorrow right it is here today and that is why all of
those people at IEM are so excited so I think that for them you know they’re
learning bioengineering as their first engineering discipline and so I think we
we’re starting to see that there you guys can talk more about how that might
be used in conflict the key thing on cybers every single person is on the
front line so it’s all about don’t click on that you know no matter how many
times you say it some knuckle always clicks but you know it is its
forefront in everyone’s mind they understand the threat they they live it
every day the Joint Staff gets taken off because someone penetrated the threat of
bio the you know that it goes back to what Jason says we generally talk about
nuclear weapons the threat of nuclear weapons the threat of conventional
imbalance you know try to get your conventional deterrence as good as you
can and there’s just not a sense you know we just don’t talk about it enough
there’s no really awareness so things like this the only it was great that we
had the CNO here but if we need to have something like this for all the lead
senior leaders in the department so they can hear hey we’re closed I mean there
are things that are really going to start happening that you need to be
paying attention to and the threats are real and we have to think about it there
are NeedyMeds anymore but stress disorder from thank you thought which is
you know there’s a real opportunity for for those of you in the audience to do
what we didn’t do in cyber which is we didn’t bake in the security at the
beginning instead we spent 30 years sort of retrofitting and we’re still paying a
pretty high technical debt for that whereas were early enough right now with
a lot of these bio technologies to bake in the security at the beginning to
create sort of intrinsic biosecurity and biosafety in ways that we probably wish
we could have we could do with a time machine now a cyber I think there’s a
lot of opportunity for you all so just help me thank this incredible panel for
being able to tie this up to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *