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International Workshop on “Raising Awareness on Dual Use Concerns in Biotechnology”

Scientists call for strict bio safety measures to avoid potential risks of Bio terrorism during an International Workshop on “Raising Awareness on Dual Use Concerns in Biotechnology” organized by Department Of Biotechnology in collaboration with School of Politics and International Relations Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad.

Speakers in their detailed presentations highlighted the great risks associated with the misuse of knowledge and emerging techniques, such as creation of pathogens with unique novel properties or completely novel pathogens that can be used as weapons or inadvertently harm life, material or the environment.

Mr. Hiroshi Inomata, Ambassador of Japan to Pakistan in his inaugural speech said that Biosciences and Biotechnology are advancing very rapidly and are seen as a major instrument in controlling various diseases, increasing productivity of crops and many other positive outcomes.  However, as emerging technologies such as Genetic Engineering and Synthetic biology advance and becoming more widely accessible to use, it is anticipated that the misuse concerns will increase.“In a dynamic global environment and the overwhelming asymmetric threats from the non-state actors; it is of utmost importance to understand the Bio security issues and initiate a coordinated global effort to cope with bio security and bio safety breaches and develop an effective response mechanism” he added.

Ambassador said that Environmentalists can play a critical role in determining how these emerging and converging technologies are ultimately developed and used.  He urged the need for rethinking current governance approaches to control DNA synthesizing technologies. He said that responsibility of bio risk management resides mainly with the top management. They should ensure that the roles, responsibilities and the authorities associated to Bio risk management are defined, documented and also communicated to those involved in the management, performance and verification of biological agents and toxins.

Chief Organizer of the Workshop and Chairman Department of Biotechnology, Quaid-i-Azam University Prof. Dr. Zabta Khan Shanwari, while sharing the importance of the topic said the development of genetic engineering and bioscience technologies also have raised a risk of bioterrorism and toxic pathogens that released from our laboratories and industries can be its source.

“If such new types of toxic mutant virus/pathogen come to our environment they could badly affect our agriculture and other living organisms including human being. The workshop will help us to develop new policies and practices that will address a variety of ethical concerns arise from biomedical research” he added.

QAU Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Etzaz Ahmed said that a wave of discoveries in the life sciences supported by new enabling technologies and drawing on many fields beyond biology, is yielding great social and economic benefits. However the challenge for scientific community is to respond the concerns which can be considered part of the broader relationship between science and society.

Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Executive Director, Higher Education Commission, Prof. Khan Bahadar Marwat Vice Chancellor Upper Dir University, Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Director School of Politics and International Relations QAU, policy makers, senior faculty members, researchers and students attended the conference. The workshop was a part of the European Union (EU) Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Centers of Excellence (CoE) Risk Mitigation Initiative and Inter Academy Panel through Pakistan Academy of Sciences.