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NTI Convenes Global Experts to Advance Innovative Approaches to Reduce Emerging Biological Risks Associated with Technology Advances

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NTI | bio convened more than 30 experts for a meeting of the Biosecurity Innovation and Risk Reduction Initiative (BIRRI) in London, United Kingdom between June 9-10, 2022.  Participants included international leaders from across the academic life science research community, biotechnology industry, national governments, international organizations, and philanthropy. Discussions focused on developing stronger biosecurity standards and building tools and best practices for reducing risks throughout the bioscience and biotechnology research and development lifecycle.

Since its launch in 2018, BIRRI has been an active forum for identifying emerging needs and developing effective solutions to address gaps within the global biosecurity architecture. These discussions were the first in-person meeting of BIRRI since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This meeting provided an opportunity to further shape the International Biosecurity and Biosafety Initiative for Science (IBBIS), a new international organization, first conceived by BIRRI experts and dedicated to reducing biological risks associated with technology advances. Participants discussed how IBBIS, which is set to launch within the year, should work alongside the World Health Organization and Biological Weapons Convention to strengthen biosecurity norms and develop innovative tools to uphold them.  Participants also encouraged IBBIS to provide solutions for national governments to create stronger oversight systems.

BIRRI participants also discussed progress in developing an international Common Mechanism for DNA synthesis screening, a new tool that can be used to screen DNA orders and customers to preserve safe and secure global access to DNA synthesis services. This mechanism was initially conceived of under the auspices of BIRRI and has been shepherded by NTI and the World Economic Forum. NTI has been working with the Technical Consortium for DNA Synthesis Screening to develop the Common Mechanism over the past three years, and it will eventually be managed by IBBIS.

BIRRI participants also discussed next steps for three pilot projects:

  • The Seal of Approval Project, which aims to change the current incentive structures of academic and industrial research institutions to encourage scientists to take steps to guard against biosecurity risk
  • The Biotechnology Funders Compact, which is working toward a public commitment by funding organizations to incorporate pre-funding biosecurity review into their decision-making processes
  • Cyber-Data-Biosecurity Intersection Project, which aims to explore and develop innovative risk mitigation approaches at the intersection of cybersecurity, data security, AI, and biosecurity to address emerging risks.

NTI | bio will continue to work with global partners to develop and advance innovative approaches under the auspices of BIRRI, with the aim of conceiving and incubating new pilot projects that reduce emerging biological risks associated with rapid technology advances.

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