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New video series on biosecurity risks and emerging technology

Biohazard chemical cabinet. Photo: Eskra/Wikimedia
Biohazard chemical cabinet. Photo: Eskra/Wikimedia

SIPRI is pleased to launch a new video series that explores biosecurity risks linked to emerging technologies and considers how these risks can be addressed. The series features international experts from the research fields of genetics, bioethics, international affairs and microbiology.

The interviews were conducted during an expert workshop in Stockholm in January 2023 on risk at the intersection of biological science and technological developments. The workshop and this video series are part of SIPRI’s work to develop a toolkit for biorisk assessment, targeting academics and researchers in the life sciences. This work, undertaken with support from the British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, examines dual-use technologies that have implications for the proliferation, development and use of biological weapons. The series gives a voice to key stakeholders in the field, working towards a mutual understanding of the challenges affecting the convergence of biotechnology and emerging technologies.

Dual-use developments across the biological sciences bring challenges to the governance framework centred on the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. This has become a particular concern in recent years, as the same factors transforming biomedical research can also remove technical barriers to the development, production and use of biological weapons. In 2019 SIPRI produced a report entitled ‘Bio Plus X’ on the convergence of developments in biotechnology with other emerging technologies such as additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence and robotics machine learning. Yet much has already changed since then, and the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic reinforces the need to ensure that innovation in the biological sciences will never be misused, accidentally or deliberately.

The interviewees stressed the urgent need to understand the risks associated with the legitimate use of equipment and materials in a wide range of scientific research and industrial activity and to engage a range of stakeholders, across states, to address the risks. Additionally, they highlighted the opportunities for sharing knowledge and expertise between state and non-state stakeholders, including the scientific community, industry, academia and other civil society actors.

Interviewees also underlined SIPRI’s leading role within research on the interplay between emerging technology and biosecurity and in bringing stakeholders together.

Watch the interviews with:

  • Dr Mirko Himmel, Principal Investigator, Department for Microbiology and Biotechnology, University of Hamburg; Associate Senior Researcher within the SIPRI Armament and Disarmament research area;
  • Dr James Revill, Head of the WMD and Space Security Programmes, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research;
  • Dr Margaret Kosal, Associate Professor, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, Georgia Institute of Technology;
  • Lizeka Tandwa, Lecturer, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, University of Witwatersrand;
  • Dr Chai Lay Ching, Associate Professor, Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Malaya;
  • Dr Abhi Veerakumarasivam, Professor of Genetics and Provost, Sunway University.

About SIPRI’s films

SIPRI produces a variety of videos to cater for different viewing preferences and to serve as an alternative platform for providing insights on peace and security. Watch more films on SIPRI’s YouTube channel