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Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

NTI convenes global experts on need for government oversight of biotechnology research

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The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) convened a meeting of more than 40 experts worldwide to address the need for better oversight of biotechnology research.

Biotechnology research is essential for reducing pandemic threats and supporting global health. However, scientific advances in the life sciences, such as DNA synthesis and gene editing, are outpacing the ability of governments to provide effective oversight. Further, there is no international entity to uphold and oversee biosecurity norms, reduce biotechnology-related risks, and strengthen best practices for life science research oversight.

Without this oversight, the field is vulnerable to deliberate or accidental misuse of biotechnology. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the magnitude of these risks.

The attendees at this BTI meeting came from the United Nations, the biotech industry, philanthropies, academia, and non-governmental organizations. Addresses were delivered by Izumi Nakamitsu, under secretary general and high representative for disarmament affairs at the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs, and Arnaud Bernaert, head of shaping the future of health and healthcare at the World Economic Forum.

These global leaders discussed plans to establish an international entity for overseeing global biosecurity norms and best practices. The entity would have a systemic impact on the global biotechnology sector, bridging the gap between governance approaches developed by industry, civil society, and governments. They also discussed recent progress to create an international common mechanism for DNA synthesis screening.