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NTI and Partners Launch 6th Annual Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition

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NTI | bio, in partnership with the Next Generation for Global Health Security (GHS) Network (NextGen), the iGEM Foundation, SynBio Africa, and the Global Health Security Network (GHSN), are pleased to launch the Sixth Annual Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition. The competition aims to cultivate the next generation of global leaders in biosecurity. We seek innovative and creative papers focused on verification measures for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).

Winners of the Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition will receive:

  • Online publication of their paper on the NTI website
  • The opportunity to travel, attend, and present during a side event at a prestigious global health security event, such as the Global Health Security Conference 2022.

COMPETITION PROMPT

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world how devastating biological events can be ― and raised concerns about our ability to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of a future pandemic, especially one that might begin as a deliberate attack by a state actor. This sort of deliberate event is what the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was designed to prevent. While the BWC prohibits Member States from developing, producing, acquiring, transferring, stockpiling, or using biological and toxin weapons,[i] it is challenging to determine whether a country is in compliance with the basic provisions of the Convention.[ii]

As of today, the BWC does not have an established system or operational body, like the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in relation to the Chemical Weapons Convention, to confidently verify treaty compliance with the Convention.[iii], [iv] Treaty verification is essential because it allows for trust amongst governments as scientists from around the world explore critical fields of science that can have dual use concerns. Verification will also lend itself to investigating and identifying treaty non-compliance, thus contributing to biological threats reduction. During the last BWC Meeting of States Parties in November 2021, treaty members, including the United States, promoted the need to strengthen implementation of the Convention and enhance assurance of compliance.[v] Actions to do so can be advanced by revisiting innovative methods for verification. This is a timely issue with the upcoming Ninth Review Conference of the BWC set to begin in August 2022. 

Given this background, Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition applicants are requested to tailor their submission to address the following question:

How can the global community leverage the tools of modern science to develop an effective and politically acceptable verification protocol to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention?

Submissions should:

  • Define what “verification” should mean for the BWC. What should verification entail (i.e., onsite inspections, offsite monitoring, and/or voluntary declarations)? What kinds of data should you collect for each of these? Who should execute this and how should it be structured?
  • Explain what barriers to verification protocols exist or have previously existed.
  • Define the risks associated with maintaining the status quo by conducting quantitative and qualitative analyses using publicly available information, such as the 2021 Global Health Security Index, to identify gaps in national compliance with international norms and national biosecurity capacities.
  • Identify and examine potential approaches for a verification protocol from a scientific and technical standpoint. What tools of modern technology and bioscience can be applied to advance the feasibility of verification within the BWC context?
  • Design policy proposals that can increase the likelihood of adoption of a verification mechanism. Explore how governments can productively approach BWC verification. How can we build a verification regime that strikes the right balance between improving transparency while not being excessively intrusive?

ELIGIBILITY

  • Teams must have three participants and include members from two or more countries and/or regions. Multisectoral teams are strongly encouraged.
  • Applicants must be currently enrolled in an academic institution or have less than five years of professional experience.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS

  • Teams must submit two PDF documents:
    • 1) Competition Proposal – a complete paper outline, including formatting and word-count requirements, can be found here.
    • 2) CVs/Resumes – a single, combined PDF with the Curriculum Vitae of each team member (3 in total)
  • All submissions must be in English. 
  • Participants are highly encouraged to consult with at least one expert in the field of biosecurity and/or biosafety, life sciences, or another related field. Consultation with this expert must be listed in the references section of the final report.

DEADLINE

Submission deadline is April 18, 2022 at 11:59PM ET. Submissions should be sent to [email protected]. Winners will be announced in June 2022.

NEED A TEAM?

Participants can find teammates by:

  • Completing the Next Generation for Biosecurity Interest Form. Once you have completed this form, you may find potential teammates here.
  • Becoming a member of the Next Generation GHS Network. Members can find teammates through the NextGen GHS Network Hub, which is available to all members after registration. To become a member, click here.

COMPETITION GOALS

The Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition seeks to:

  • Promote dialogue about the potential for deliberate and accidental catastrophic biological events within international fora, such as the GHSA, that generally focus on naturally occurring biological threats
  • Raise awareness within the global health security community about significant biological risks associated with advances in biotechnology
  • Strengthen national and regional capabilities to achieve GHSA and World Health Organization Joint External Evaluation biosecurity and biosafety targets
  • Create linkages between established global biosecurity experts and next-generation leaders
  • Promote diversity, equity, and inclusion within the global health security community
  • Foster the development of a global cadre of diverse, multi-sectoral next-generation biosecurity leaders committed to reducing catastrophic biological risks and strengthening biosecurity.

Watch our virtual panel featuring an overview of the 2022 Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition and a discussion moderated by a former winner of the competition with experts on this year’s prompt here.

ABOUT THE SPONSORS

NTI is a nonprofit, nopartisan global security organization focused on reducing nuclear and biological threats imperiling humanity. NTI has addressed biosecurity issues since our founding in 2001. NTI | bio is developing new initiatives to curb global catastrophic biological risks, catalyze international biosecurity norms and innovation, enhance biosurveillance for emerging threats, and advocate for measurable biosecurity commitments as an integral component of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).

The Next Generation Global Health Security (GHS) Network engages and facilitates contributions by emerging scholars, scientists, and professionals from government and non-governmental institutions to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) and other global health security projects. Through its mission, the Next Generation Global Health Security Network promotes the values of inclusion, collaboration, education, innovation, and participation to approach and overcome the biggest challenges facing the health security fields today.

The iGEM Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition, and the development of an open community and collaboration. This is done by fostering an open, cooperative community and friendly competition. iGEM is unique in our comprehensive and thorough approach to synthetic biology. With our world class safety and security and human practices programs, we lead the field by fostering an environment of mindful and responsible work.

Synbio Africa is a forum for researchers, students, citizen scientists, policy makers and the public at large to convene and develop successful pathways for the propagation of synthetic biology technologies, products and services throughout Africa.

The Global Health Security Network (GHSN) is a multidisciplinary professional association dedicated to facilitating evidence- informed policy for the detection, prevention and control of infectious disease threats, irrespective of origin or source. GHSN was created to provide a space where global health academics, scientists and policy-makers from across multiple sectors and around the world have a platform to share their thoughts, ideas, research and innovations with other professionals.

 

[i] https://www.un.org/disarmament/biological-weapons/

[ii]  Lentzos, Filippa. 2019. “Compliance and Enforcement in the Biological Weapons Regime.” WMDCE Series No. 4. Geneva, Switzerland: UNIDIR. https://doi.org/10.37559/WMD/19/WMDCE4

[iii]  https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/secretary-general-mechanism/

[iv]  https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/09/06/the-biological-weapons-convention-at-a-crossroad/

[v] https://documents.unoda.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/US-FINAL-updated.pdf

 

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