B Summary of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Trends Symposium - 13-15 September 2015, Warsaw, Poland

13-15 September 2015, Warsaw, Poland

The Trends Symposium brought together scientists, government and security experts from 30 countries around the world to discuss cutting-edge science and technology with a potential impact for biosecurity. The Trends Symposium was supported by IAP – the global network of science academies, the Royal Society, the US National Academies of Sciences (NAS) and the Polish Academy of Sciences.

This forms part of a project to conduct an independent review of recent scientific and technological developments that have implications for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) to feed into the Meeting of State Parties in 2015 and preparation for the Review Conference in 2016.
In each session, presentations were given by scientists about developments and the implications of these for the BTWC were then discussed by all of the participants. The presentations on scientific developments covered recent advances, like gene drives, gene editing with CRISPR/CAS, miniaturised and portable equipment, synthetic biology and microbial forensics. The discussions of the implications then looked at the ways in which the developments present risks or benefits for the BTWC.
Trends in the science and technology that impact the BTWC:

portable equipment allows for real time analysis identifications during outbreaks and environmental analysis to identify sources of infection increasing speed of response
databases and biorepositories to support monitoring and identification are improving new systems allowing rapid development of therapeutics or vaccines e.g. ZMAPP monoclonal antibodies
low cost and single use technology means these developments are more affordable, including for those with malicious intent standardisation and interoperability of biological parts, methods and equipment means less expert knowledge is required change in the way science is done, increased outsourcing, no longer need to transfer materials just digital information.
The trends symposium generated robust discussion and was informed by a series of background papers that provided a detailed outline of the advances in science and technology. The input from the Trends Symposium will build on these documents highlighting the trends and the implication as identified by the participants. The draft documents will be reviewed by experts from the Royal Society and IAP Biosecurity Working Group, before being provided to the IAP Executive Committee for review.
The resulting documents will be developed in time for a side event to be held at Meeting of State Parties in December 2015 and provided to delegates at that meeting so that the findings can inform the discussion in preparation for the December 2016 Review Conference.
A blog about the event has been posted on the Royal Society blog InVerba:
https://blogs.royalsociety.org/in-verba/2015/09/15/how-can-scientists-support-the-biological-and-toxin-weapons-convention/
All the released documents have been posted in the reports section of our website.

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