From 14 to 16 June, the Implementation Support Unit (ISU) of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), together with the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), organised a joint capacity-building course on virus detection and biosecurity in the framework of Article X of the BWC at the ICGEB’s headquarters in Trieste, Italy.
Under Article X of the BWC, the States Parties shall cooperate in contributing with other States or international organisations to further the development and application of scientific discoveries in the field of biology for prevention of disease, or for other peaceful purposes.
The course focused on human viral diseases with a pandemic potential. It included lectures in molecular virology, genomic surveillance, detection of emerging viruses, modern diagnostic technologies including DNA sequencing and their cost effectiveness, antiviral therapy, vaccination as well as biosecurity and bioethics. During the sessions in the ICGEB laboratories, participants practiced the application of molecular assay and modern sequencing methods for virus detection through hands-on exercises. The course was further enriched by experts from the ICGEB scientific partners’ network in Africa and Eastern Europe who shared their experiences on establishing diagnostic laboratories and implementing sequencing techniques during the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Moldova, Nigeria and Slovenia, respectively.
Twenty-one experts, thirteen of them women, from twenty BWC States Parties (Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Ukraine), joined the course. All participants, except one self-funded participant, were from the list of OECD’s DAC List of ODA Recipients in 2023. Selected participants were mainly mid-career professional experts with backgrounds in microbiology, virology and infectious disease representing national research or academic institutes that deal with infectious disease outbreaks.
The course was organised in the context of a three-year project on ‘Reducing Biological Risks by Promoting the Peaceful Use of Biology’, with the financial support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project aims specifically to provide technical assistance to developing BWC States Parties and foster cooperation on issues relating to the implementation of Article X of the BWC.