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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration wants to modernize the federal guidelines for companies that sell made-to-order DNA in hopes of keeping dangerous genetic material — like smallpox or the Ebola virus — out of the hands of malicious potential customers, federal officials confirmed to STAT this week.

The administration’s work is still in early stages, and it’s too soon to tell whether or how the government will make the guidelines more stringent, as companies and experts in the space have called for. Right now, the Department of Health and Human Services is kicking off “a broad interagency effort to review the guidance and make any necessary changes to reflect the evolving technological landscape,” said Theresa Lawrence, a director in HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.


The current guidelines were written in 2010, at a time when just a handful of shops that were selling custom-ordered genetic information, known as “synthetic DNA,” to researchers or companies in the nascent industry.

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