Global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences: mitigating biorisks and governing dual-use research

A milestone for the collaborative projects outlined in the ISC’s Action Plan, the guidance framework for the responsible use of life sciences has now been published by the World Health Organization.

Kota Makassar, Kota Makassar, Indonesia, Nurse at Cathlab control room

The Global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences: mitigating biorisks and governing dual-use research aims to provide values and principles, tools and mechanisms to support Member States and key stakeholders to mitigate and prevent biorisks and govern dual-use research.

As a key project in the ISC’s Action Plan, ISC representatives, including Craig Callender and Fran├žoise Baylis, have collaborated with a high-level group coordinated by the World Health Organization to produce the framework document. The framework focuses on the role that responsible research can play in preventing and mitigating risks caused by accidents, unanticipated and deliberate misuse with the intention to cause harm to humans, nonhuman animals, plants and agriculture, and the environment.

The framework adopts the One Health Approach and focuses on the role that responsible life sciences research can play in preventing and mitigating risks caused by accidents, inadvertent or deliberate misuse with the intention to cause harm to humans, nonhuman animals, plants and agriculture, and the environment.

“WHO plays a critical role in harnessing the power of science and innovation and provides global leadership to support Member States in translating the latest in science, evidence, innovation and digital solutions to improve health and health equity for all.”

Dr Soumya Swaminathan | Chief Scientist
World Health Organization

The framework:

  • Raises awareness about the importance of biorisks management in the context of the One Health approach;
  • Provides a set of values and principles to guide decision-making;
  • Identifies tools and mechanisms for biorisk management;
  • Sets out a practical five-step approach for implementing the Framework;
  • Offers checklists for various stakeholders; and
  • Developed scenarios and case studies to illustrate issues and options in the governance of biorisks and dual-use research.

The framework is primarily intended for those who have responsibilities in the governance of biorisks, such as policy makers and regulators in charge of developing national policies to harness the potential benefits of the life sciences while constraining their risks. The framework is also directed towards scientists and research institutions, educators, trainers, project management staff, funding bodies, publishers, editors, security actors, the private sector and all relevant stakeholders that are part of the research life cycle.

The governance of biorisks is an issue that should engage all countries, although countries will have different contexts, needs and starting points. Mitigating these risks will require individual and collective actions among different stakeholders and disciplines. Mitigating biorisks and governing dual-use research is a shared responsibility.


Image: irwan-rbDE93-0hHs-unsplash

Reporting by WHO.

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