a collaborative biosecurity summit

February 22, 2020

The Laundry, San Francisco

Biotechnology is moving fast.

You’ve heard the news: DNA synthesis and sequencing get cheaper every year. Standardized biological parts and affordable tools mean that you can engineer bacteria in your garage. Cultivated meat is coming to a supermarket near you. The first CRISPR babies will soon be learning to walk.

Many futures are possible.

It’s now easy to imagine a future where we eradicate diseases like malaria, manufacture carbon-neutral plastics, and seed the deserts with drought-resistant crops. But we must also consider futures that include runaway gene drives, laboratory accidents we can't contain, and even the spread of engineered pathogens. We cannot launch new biotechnologies into the world and blindly hope they will disrupt it for the better. We must thoughtfully, collaboratively and creatively face the consequences of our innovation.

Its time to work together

Catalyst will be a day of collaborative problem-solving for a broad range of people invested in the future of biotechnology, including synthetic biologists, policymakers, academics, and biohackers. We aim to catalyze a community of forward-looking individuals who will work together to engineer a future enhanced by biology and not endangered by it.

The summit is free to attend for everyone accepted, and the application only takes a few minutes. We expect participants to come from diverse backgrounds, and welcome applicants who do not work professionally in biosecurity or biotechnology, who are early in their careers, and who are skeptical of how biosecurity discussions are typically framed.

We know thoughtful, well-intentioned people differ on how to balance caution and innovation. We hope to create a space where productive conversations can be had across lines of disagreement. If you’re not sure that you'd fit in at this event, consider that your perspective may add valuable diversity of thought to these conversations.

About the event

At Catalyst, you can expect an environment tailored for around 100 people to explore technical solutions to emerging biological risks. The summit will feature a combination of talks, workshops, small-group discussions, and structured problem-solving. We hope to create a context for sharing perspectives, building connections, and sparking collaboration.


The organizing team

Catalyst is being organized by a team of PhD students, early-career researchers, and biotechnology professionals, including the organizers behind the East Bay Biosecurity Group. The conference is supported by a grant from the Effective Altruism Long Term Future Fund. We are being advised by Dr. Megan Palmer and Dr. Kevin Esvelt and Dr. Jun Axup. Please contact us if you have thoughts to share.