New International Biosecurity Organization Launched to Safeguard Bioscience

MUNICH (February 15, 2024)— Amid rapid advances in bioscience and biotechnology that could  pose significant global security risks without effective guardrails, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) today launched the International Biosecurity and Biosafety Initiative for Science (IBBIS), a first-of-its-kind organization to strengthen international biosecurity governance. IBBIS, an independent organization to be headquartered in Geneva, provides tools that will allow technological innovation to flourish, safely and responsibly.

Advances in bioscience offer important societal benefits, but fast-moving innovations have lowered barriers for manipulating biological agents, increasing the risk of potentially catastrophic accidents or deliberate misuse. These risks are exacerbated by the increasing application of artificial intelligence and machine learning to biotechnology.

“Biological threats present a significant global security risk, and the stakes couldn’t be higher,” NTI Co-Chair and CEO Ernest J. Moniz said. “IBBIS was established to create a safer future through collaborative work with governments and international partners to reduce emerging biological risks associated with rapid technology advances.”

Until now, there has been no organization solely dedicated to safeguarding the tools of modern bioscience and biotechnology from deliberate or accidental misuse. NTI identified this gap and worked with international partners to establish IBBIS and launch it today during an event on the margins of the Munich Security Conference. Piers Millett, Ph.D., serves as the inaugural executive director, and IBBIS has an international advisory group, which includes Nisreen AL-Hmoud from Jordan, Lela Bakanidze from Georgia, Rik Bleijs from the Netherlands, Luis Carrera from the United States, Genya Dana from the United States, O’Neil Hamilton from Jamaica, Aamer Ikram from Pakistan, Angela Kane from Germany, Irma Makalinao from the Philippines, Talkmore Maruta from Zambia, Suryesh Namdeo from India, Harawati Sudoyo from Indonesia, and Weiwen Zhang from China.

IBBIS will collaborate with governments, international organizations, industry and academia to develop and promote practical, innovative tools that stakeholders can use to reduce risks throughout the bioscience and biotechnology research and development lifecycle. The first of such tools is now available—a new Common Mechanism software tool for DNA synthesis providers that enables them to cost effectively screen DNA orders and customers to ensure that the building blocks of dangerous pathogens do not fall into the hands of malicious actors.

“The international Common Mechanism will be available to all DNA providers globally and will help prevent the misuse or abuse of this vital technology,” said Millett.

“IBBIS will be able to bring all of the right stakeholders from various sectors–whether it’s public sector, international organizations, civil societies–and get them to agree to a common goal,” said Shyam Bishen, head of the Centre for Health and Healthcare at the World Economic Forum.

NTI secured funding from philanthropic donors for IBBIS’ initial operating costs, which allows IBBIS to broaden its activities beyond DNA synthesis screening safeguards within the next three years. Future work streams could include working with funders and publishers to processes for reviewing and managing risks from dual-use science, as well as supporting governments in strengthening biosecurity practices.

“The vision driving IBBIS is to create a future where bioscience and biotechnology can fulfill their immense promise,” explained Jaime M. Yassif, Ph.D., NTI’s vice president of Global Biological Policy and Programs. “I am pleased that national governments, industry, and the scientific community are embracing IBBIS and its ambitious agenda for developing innovative, practical tools for safeguarding the 21st century biotechnology revolution.”


The International Biosecurity and Biosafety Initiative for Science (IBBIS) works collaboratively with global partners to strengthen biosecurity norms and develop innovative tools to uphold them. We undertake this work to safeguard science and reduce the risk of catastrophic events that could result from deliberate abuse or accidental misuse of bioscience and biotechnology.

About the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)

NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan global security organization focused on reducing nuclear and biological threats imperiling humanity.

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