On 6 October 2020, UNICRI in partnership with the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and in coordination with the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Working Group on Emerging Threats and Critical Infrastructure Protection (ETCIP), organized the virtual expert meeting “Technology and Security: Using Biotechnology to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Terrorism.”
The scope of this expert teleworkshop was to review and discuss how advances in biotechnology, ranging from next-generation sequencing technologies to synthetic biology, can help UN Member States combat chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) terrorism.
The meeting specifically focused on biotechnology applications aimed at minimizing the impact of deliberate disease events (bioterrorism), including applications supporting the rapid detection and identification of infectious agents, microbial forensics, and the production of vaccines and therapeutics.
Consideration was given not only to the current state-of-the-art, including the advantages and limitations of several cutting-edge biotechnologies, but also to possible future advances that are likely to significantly improve present-day capabilities.
Around 40 participants took part in the event, including international experts from academia, industry, UN Member States and International Organizations. Amongst them, Dr. Nancy Connell from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security offered an analysis of next-generation DNA sequencing technology, including signatures of DNA manipulation hidden within sequences, while Mr. Pierre Viaud described a new pilot technology for food contamination detection. Experts from the Forensic Science Center (FSC) of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) also analyzed the state-of-the-art of microbial forensics while Mr. Glen Cuttance from Torrens Resilience Institute (TRI) and Dr. Alessandro Marcello from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) advanced innovative ideas to respond to a crisis and produce antibody therapeutics.