Greg Koblentz, member of the Scientists Working Group, was quoted in Undark.
Reforms are receiving “a lot more attention,” said Gregory Koblentz, a biodefense expert at George Mason University. But, he added, “the part that really concerns me right now is this kind of hyper-partisan polarization of this issue, which might make it harder to translate the level of concern that people are expressing into an effective policy response.”
Behind the scenes in Washington, some policy analysts say, there’s interest in new biosafety legislation among lawmakers in both parties. But building political capital can be difficult. “These issues are not really of concern to the average voter,” said Koblentz. “People don’t get elected because they improve biosafety. It’s just too narrow and technical of an issue — unless you can tie it to some higher partisan issue, which is what Republicans have done.”
In recent remarks to the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, a nonprofit group, Koblentz warned that the stakes of inaction are only getting higher: New developments in genome editing, synthetic biology, and other fields could pose fresh risks. More private companies are doing work in this area, often with virtually no public scrutiny. And the pandemic, he predicted, would lead to a surge in pathogen research — fueling a growth of BSL-3 and BSL-4 laboratories in countries that have limited biosafety oversight. It’s time, he wrote, for reforms at home — and for a “new global architecture for biorisk management.”