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Improving global biosecurity

Improving global biosecurity

Since the mid-1990s, the Bradford Disarmament Research Centre has been influencing global biosecurity through a portfolio of research reports and briefing papers used by the 170 State members of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) to continually strengthen the treaty.

The BTWC was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production, stockpiling of an entire category of weapons that could be used to generate disease in humans, animals and crops.  Funded by major international charitable and governmental bodies, Bradford’s research portfolio has incorporated insights into new biology applications, such as genetic weapons to target ethnic groups, and highlighted how poor biosecurity practices could lead to accidental misuse of life sciences research, with catastrophic consequences.

The Disarmament Research Centre now informs key recommendations and agenda items for the regular meetings between the Convention’s member States. Staff from the Research Centre have been invited to participate in and deliver presentations at virtually every workshop, briefing and expert working group since 1996 and individual member States regularly cite Bradford’s research in their own proposals and discussions relating to the Convention.

Bradford has further underpinned the aims of the treaty by developing training resources for life scientists around the world. Twenty lectures exploring issues around ethics, best practice responsible conduct and the potential threats posed by technologies developed through life science research  are accessible online free of charge in a variety of languages.

In 2010 Bradford launched the world’s only university-accredited module for scientists to train their colleagues in bioethics and biosecurity, a programme completed by life scientists from 14 countries. Recent funding has enabled the Bradford team to tailor the online resources to specific issues and needs of individual countries where biosecurity training is particularly pertinent, with the US Department of State commissioning the team to deliver training in Iraq.

Related academic: Dr Simon Whitby.