Expert calls for care in development of bioscience in Asia
A global infectious disease outbreak involving either the deliberate release a lethal pathogen or one from natural sources could claim millions of lives and cause severe economic damages, according to SCMP.com.
Jaime Yassif, a biophysicist from the University of California Berkeley, said that the issue of life sciences governance is particularly significant in Asia, where the biotech industry is growing more rapidly than policy and regulation can effectively manage.
China has heavily invested in its domestic biotech industry. Biotechnology in Malaysia already accounts for 2.5 percent of the country's economic output. Indonesia has also recently set its sights on developing its biotech capabilities.
"Managing the risks presents several challenges," Yassif says, SCMP.com reports. "Firstly, dual-use biotech tools, materials and knowledge are widely distributed, and research takes place at thousands of facilities worldwide. This increases ease of access and hence risk of exploitation by those with malevolent intent."
Yassif also contends that it is rapidly becoming easier for non-state actors to develop a biological weapon, and that such weapons would now be easier to develop than those using nuclear material.
The West, Yassif said, currently has a chance to foster cooperation with governments and scientists across the Pacific by sharing its knowledge of the support structures that need accompany responsible investments in bioscience.
"More effective management of biosecurity challenges means establishing a culture of responsibility among researchers, developing self-governance practices in the industry, and strengthening institutions to support these efforts," Yassif says, according to SCMP.com.