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Biosafety / Bioethics Platform in dual-use sciences

#T-2224


Creation of a regional scientific - educational Platform on Biosafety / Bioethics in dual-use sciences for Central Asia and Caucasus

Tech Area / Field

  • BIO-SFS/Biosafety and BioSecurity/Biotechnology
  • INF-COM/High Performance Computing and Networking/Information and Communications

Status
3 Approved without Funding

Registration date
03.09.2015

Leading Institute
Tajik Association of BioSecurity, Tajikistan, Dushanbe

Supporting institutes

  • Georgian Biosafety Association, Georgia, Tbilisi\nInstitute of Medical Problems of Southern Branch of the NAS KR, Kyrgyzstan, Osh\nRegional Training Center for Health Research, Kazakstan, Astana\nInternational Association for Human and Animals Health Improvement, Armenia, Yerevan

Collaborators

  • University of Bradford, UK, Bradford\nInternational Federation of Biosafety Associations, Canada, ON, Ottawa

Project summary

In recent decades, advances in biotechnology, biomedicine, and genetic engineering have opened great prospects in the development of human sciences and had a significant positive impact on perse spheres of human activity. Latest developments in this area include highly efficient medicines, higher quality and cheaper food, and others that improve the quality and length of life, as well as raise the quality of care and overall health to new heights. However, the progress can also yield negative consequences. Advances in microbiology, synthetic biology and genetic engineering may lead to the emergence of new viruses, bacteria or higher organisms endangering mankind and the existing ecosystems. Given the global dimension of biotechnology, there is not one single focal point of potential threats associated with emerging technologies. Action therefore is required at all levels, from the inpidual through the regional to the international. Increasingly, the broader legal, social, and ethical implications of cutting-edge life science advances have been discussed within the framework of a novel discourse linking biotechnology, security, and bioethics.
Biosafety remains a concern of the international community, highlighted in numerous discussions and statements at international level. The intensive development of natural sciences raises a particularly acute problem of biosafety. Technologies that only 20 year ago were at the forefront of science (eg. DNA synthesis) have now become routine and their costs – decreased by orders of magnitude. Emerging fields of study, such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and genomics, have opened new horizons which researchers previously deemed unattainable. The key concern here is the problem of dual-use technology, the technology and scientific and technical information normally used for civilian purposes which may also be used for the production of certain types of weapons and military equipment, including weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, nuclear). Potential misuse of dual-use technology should be addressed through cooperation and dialogue among all stakeholders – public and private institutions and biotechnology enterprises. The international community has recommended various measures to overcome the problem of dual-use technology - the use of approved guidelines, export controls (e.g. Australia Group), life science research oversight, codes of conduct for life scientists, as well as active countermeasures, including the creation of national systems for the biopreparedness, surveillance and detection of pathogens, disease diagnosis, and investigation in case of serious violations of biosafety or threats of hostile misuse, e.g. bio-terrorism. In 2004, the US National Research Council has published an extensive review report entitled "Biotechnology Research in the Age of Terrorism", also known as the Fink Report. Among the measures for mitigating the impact of and addressing the “dual-use dilemma” in the life sciences, the report called for: i. raising awareness of the scientific community about the issue of dual-use technologies from the perspective of biosafety issues and the fight against bioterrorism; ii. empowerment of institutional biosafety committees to restrict the publication of controversial issues in terms of dual-use results; iii. increasing the role of self-censorship in the scientific community (as a counterweight to government censorship) in the preparation of materials that are sent to the press; iv. the creation of a new advisory body to coordinate the actions of government agencies in relation to dual-use technologies.
Furthermore, unjustifiable loss of human and animal life and significant economic losses could occur as a result of gross violations of biosafety regulations. To minimise these threats, a multilateral approach is required, based on:
- Internationally accepted guidelines and effective national legislation reflecting the current level of scientific and technological advancement;
- Educational programmes in biosafety and biosecurity for professionals in the life sciences, biotechnology professionals, students of natural sciences at universities, veterinarians and physicians.
Promoting adequate biosafety, biosecurity, and bioethics training and fostering a culture of responsibility in the life sciences are thus critical components of an effective national system of biorisk management.
Project goal: Fostering a regional biosafety/biosecuity/bioethics education network of research institutes and universities in Central Asian countries and the Caucasus.
Project tasks: - Creation of a working group consisting of leading experts in biosafety/bioethics in Central Asia and the Caucasus;
- Creation of a database of local experts on biosafety/bioethics (teachers, scientists, experts);
- Study of the historical and cultural heritage related to bioethics of the various ethnic groups in region;
- Review of existing and development of new educational and training materials on biosafety/bioethics for teachers and researchers;
- Pilot exercises using the training materials in the countries participating in the project (both with university students and specialists working directly with pathogens);
- Evaluation of the results;
- Presentation of the results at international conferences;
- Cooperation with relevant international and regional organisations represented in the region.
The relevance of the project – The present project proposal is informed by the recommendations of a workshop held in Tajikistan in June (see below) and seeks to foster a regional network for the delivery of biosafety, biosecurity, and bioethics education across Central Asia and the Caucasus. The network (platform) will enable experts from theregion to exchange ideas, share knowledge, best practices and lessons learned, and to develop educational curricula on biosafety / bioethics aimed at research institutes and universities of Central Asia and the Caucasus.


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