Bioterrorism workshop presenters call for greater safety measures

The Quaid-i-Azam University Department of Biotechnology and the School of Politics and International Relations held a workshop on March 26 that explored concerns in biotechnology.

The workshop, titled "Raising awareness on dual use concerns in biotechnology," focused on the misuse of knowledge and emerging techniques, including the creation of unique and novel pathogens that can be used as weapons or harm life, material or the environment, according to the Express Tribune.

"In a dynamic global environment and the overwhelming asymmetric threats from the non-state actors, it is of utmost importance to understand the bio-security issues and initiate a coordinated global effort to cope with bio-security and bio-safety breaches and develop an effective response mechanism," Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Inomata said, the Express Tribune reports.

Inomata said that as genetic engineering and synthetic biology advance, concerns about misuse will increase, according to the Express Tribune.

Department of Biotechnology Chairman Zabta Khan Shanwari said development of genetic engineering and bioscience technology have increased the risk of bioterrorism, and if virus and pathogens used for research are released from laboratories, they would cause harm.

"If such new types of toxic mutant virus/pathogen come to our environment they could badly affect our agriculture and other living organisms including human being," Shanwari said, according to the Express Tribune. "The workshop will help us develop new policies and practices that will address a variety of ethical concerns arise from biomedical research."

QAU Vice-Chancellor Etzaz Ahmed said the wave of research and discoveries has created great social and economic benefits, and the scientific community must respond to concerns as part of its relationship with society, the Express Tribune reports.

The workshop was part of the European Union CBRN Centres of Excellence Risk Mitigation Initiative and Inter-Academy Panel through Pakistan Academy of Sciences.