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Winners of 2021 Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition Announced

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NTI | bio, in partnership with the Next Generation Global Health Security Network, is pleased to announce the winners of the fifth annual Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition: Kenza Samlali, a PhD candidate in electrical and computer engineering at Concordia University, Center for Applied Synthetic Biology, Canada; Julie Stern, a master’s candidate in biodefense at George Mason University, Schar School of Policy and Government and mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, United States; and Elicana Nduhuura, a medical student at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda.

Teams who submitted to the 2021 competition were asked to write innovative and creative papers focused on responsible conduct of life science research and answer the question “What life science research should not be conducted, if any? Should red lines in life science research be drawn? If so, by whom?” An international expert panel of 20 judges evaluated the papers in a three-round collaborative virtual judging process. The winning team was selected from papers submitted by students and young professionals from 13 countries across five continents. A special thanks to Dr. Gregory Koblentz of George Mason University and Dr. Mark Kazmierczak of Gryphon Scientific for helping the authors refine their submission after being selected as the winners.

The winning paper, “Towards Responsible Genomic Surveillance: A Review of Biosecurity and Dual-use Regulation,” identified potential risks in the genomic surveillance research pipelines and in existing health security frameworks and concluded that samples collected for disease surveillance should not be used for research involving more than just the pathogenic genetic information without express consent from the donor. The authors offer recommendations that can be implemented through treaties, national legislative frameworks, and international frameworks to address these risks without undermining the importance of genomic surveillance, including the development of new genomic data policies on consent, data privacy, data access, and benefit-sharing.

The 2021 Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition winners will receive an honorarium and will present their work, virtually at the 2021 Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties side-event, “The Youth Declaration for Biosecurity: Mobilizing Youth to Strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.” This event will be hosted by NTI | bio, the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM), Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security (CHS), United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), the International Federation of Biosafety Associations (IFBA), and the Next Generation Global Health Security Network (NextGen) on Monday, November 22, 2021, from 1:15PM – 2:45 PM CET (7:15AM – 8:45AM ET).

The Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition helps cultivate a global cadre of multi-sectoral, young professionals dedicated to reducing global catastrophic biological risks. Follow #NextGenBiosecurity for updates during the upcoming Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties. Read more about the annual competition and last year’s winners here.

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