• A phoenix of the modern world: the re-emergence of National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and its implications for scientific partners

      Walther, Gerald; Dando, Malcolm R. (2015)
      While there are many mythical stories of various kinds about the Phoenix it retains several features throughout all of them. In ancient Egypt, the Phoenix was the prodigy of the sun god Ra and appeared in the shape of a giant bird of fire, which was one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. It was remarkable in that it could not foster any offspring and at the end of its life would explode in a ball of fire. Out of the ashes, an egg is formed which then hatches the Phoenix again in its young form. The cry of a Phoenix was supposed to be of miraculous beauty. This chapter will explore if the Phoenix is a suitable metaphor for the recent re-emergence of the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), which was tasked with providing scientific expertise to the government on questions of the security risks of emerging science and technology in the life sciences. The analogy to the Phoenix suggests itself because the NSABB, chartered in 2004, had been inactive for over two years and only recently took up its work. The comparison between the Phoenix and the NSABB gives rise to several questions: first, has the re-emergence of the NSABB been met with an equally beautiful cry of joy among the scientists and security experts? Second, what happens when the Phoenix lies dormant? And third, what took place before the Phoenix was created?
    • Preventing Biological Threats: What You Can Do.

      Whitby, Simon M.; Novossiolova, Tatyana; Walther, Gerald; Dando, Malcolm R. (2015-12)
      The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014 has underlined the risks posed by outbreaks of highly virulent and deadly diseases, whether caused naturally, accidentally or deliberately. It also emphasised the responsibility of all those engaged in the life sciences, whether in government, industry or academia, to ensure that research is done safely and securely. This book, Preventing Biological Threats, is intended to raise awareness and knowledge of biological security of everyone active in the life sciences, ranging from those engaged in research to those engaged in management and policy-making, both nationally and internationally. The advances in biotechnology over the past decades and in the future have brought and will bring significant benefits to humankind, animals and plants -- however, these advances also bring risks that we need to be aware of and ensure that they cause no harm. The continuing debate about the potential danger of carrying out ‘Gain-of-Function’ experiments with highly pathogenic viruses such as avian influenza has brought the problem of biological security to the attention of many within but also beyond the life science community. It also has left some of them wondering what biological security is and how it can be incorporated into the life sciences. What steps should be taken to ensure that these and other dual use research activities are not misused? It is being increasingly recognised that biosecurity and biosafety are not only relevant to activities within a laboratory, but also extend to the effects that these activities can have outside the laboratory if they result in accidental outbreaks of diseases in humans, animals or plants. The international basis for the prevention of the hostile misuse of life sciences is the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention which this year, on 26 March 2015, has been in force for forty years. The Convention was the first treaty to prohibit the development and possession of an entire category of weapons. At this moment 173 States Parties have ratified the Convention (and the Convention has a further 9 Signatories). At the Seventh Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 2011, of which I was President, the States Parties agreed on the need for all those engaged in the life sciences to be involved as key stakeholders in the protection of their work from hostile misuse, and therefore on the importance of broad biosecurity education. This book with its 21 chapters addresses the need for biosecurity education, in six sections on the history of threats and responses; scientists, organisations and biosecurity; biosecurity and law enforcement; states and biosecurity; and biosecurity and active learning. It is a significant and welcome step forward both in its integrated content and the active learning focus in the associated Team Based Learning exercises. I am convinced that this approach will help all those engaged in the life sciences - in government, industry or academia – to become more aware of biosecurity and of their responsibilities for it. It is therefore a great pleasure to commend the authors and editors for their work and the Governments of Canada, Jordan and the United Kingdom for their funding and involvement in the production of this book under the Global Partnership. Ambassador Paul van den IJssel