Biosecurity Innovation and Risk Reduction Initiative Launch

Cambridge, Massachusetts

NTI | bio, partnering with experts from around the world, launched the NTI Biosecurity Innovation and Risk Reduction Initiative in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 29. The multi-year project seeks to identify, develop, publicize, and promote concrete and normative actions to reduce global catastrophic biological risks associated with advances in technology.

Participants included global leaders in the related fields of genomics, virology, microbiology, security, bioethics, research funding, and science publishing.

Recognizing that advances in biotechnology are rapidly outpacing the ability of governments to provide effective oversight, Initiative participants discussed the vision and actions that would guide the effort and agreed to take forward specific proposals for researchers, institutions, companies, and investors to reduce risks.  

In advance of this Initiative kickoff meeting, multiple authors from different sectors and countries drafted detailed concept papers outlining steps that could be taken to reduce risks associated with advances in technology. Each of these papers was informed by discussions during a meeting organized by NTI, Wellcome Trust, and the World Economic Forum under Chatham House Rule in June 2018.  

In addition to the five concept papers, a sixth paper included topics for additional consideration by the Initiative. Aspects of these topics may be integrated with planned working groups or revisited following additional research and discussion. 

Initiative members also discussed and agreed on the importance of four additional areas for future work:

  • Incentivizing technical innovation to build safer and more security technologies, including incentivizing a cadre of scientists and engineers who are focused on countering negative outcomes associated with new biotechnologies.
  • Global oversight – such as existing models for oversight of smallpox research or prequalification of certain types of laboratories – of research that enhances the transmissibility or virulence of potentially pandemic pathogens.
  • Establishing publishing standards for potentially risky research, including consistent biosecurity review practices, consideration of a “no undercut policy,” standards for removing pre-prints that may pose a concern, and establishing an independent review body.
  • Developing one or more multilateral governance models for mitigating biological risks associated with advances in technology.  A global oversight committee that functions as a good-faith broker mediating between stakeholders might be able to facilitate quick and adaptive responses to biosecurity challenges as they arise.

Photos from the kickoff event can be viewed below: 

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