The Inscripta Blog

December 8, 2020

Inside Inscripta: Beth Vitalis, Biosecurity

Our “Inside Inscripta” blog series allows readers to get to know the terrific people who make up our company. These are the scientists, coders, and other professionals who are ushering the company’s vision into reality. This week, we chat with Biosecurity Specialist Beth Vitalis, who grew up in Fargo, ND, and completed her PhD in biomedical sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

What’s your role at Inscripta?

I was brought in to help build a biosecurity program. It was very important to our leadership team that we have biosecurity incorporated right from the start. We have been developing the biosecurity screening system, which involves protocols for customer and sequence screening. I’m also working on community engagement, hoping to bring the industry together to try to establish norms for genome engineering biosecurity since it is a relatively new and growing field. I serve as a liaison with government as well to gain support, keeping relevant groups informed about our biosecurity processes and needs. Recently I’ve been working with other team members to demonstrate broader utility of Inscripta’s technology, and that has been really interesting and promising.

What brought you to the company?

The technology with its diverse uses is fascinating. When I started meeting members of the team and realizing how engaged everyone was not only in the work, but also in the collaborative spirit, that was really compelling. As part of my role here, I work with almost every group at Inscripta. It’s a very inclusive, respectful environment.

What are the most important issues to address for biosecurity?

Biology is complex, and one challenge is predicting all potential effects of genome engineering. That’s why we use a proactive, multipronged biosecurity approach. While safety and responsibility are the impetus, public perception is also important. We want to instill societal trust and ensure customer safety, and in order to do that we need to effectively recognize and mitigate real and perceived biorisk. We aim to demonstrate that the benefits of genome engineering far outweigh the potential downsides, and that customer and public safety are top priority.

If you could use genome engineering to address any challenge, what would you choose and why?

In the medical field, I would want to be able to develop effective drugs on-demand for new infectious disease agents to subvert outbreak scenarios.

Are you a reader or a writer?

Both, but reading wins if I must choose. When I was teaching, I liked reading textbooks to find different examples and other ways of explaining things. I enjoy reading about advances in human physiology, current science in genome engineering, and bioethics related to synthetic biology.

What did you do as a kid that you wish you could do more as an adult?

Camping, backpacking and exploring nature with family.

What’s your favorite vacation?

My vacations have often been about preparing for and participating in ultramarathons, which cover a distance of about 30 to 100 miles, often on mountain trails. I’ve always loved running but as I got older I got slower, so I started running farther. Ultramarathons have taught me tenacity and discipline.