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Report of the 2nd OIE Global Conference on Biological Threat Reduction Enhancing Health and Security for All




As an Organization with an official agreement of cooperation with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE, Office International des Epizooties) the International Committee on Military Medicine has sent a representative to attend the 2nd OIE Global Conference on Biological Threat Reduction which was held in Ottawa, Canada on 31 October - 2 November 2017. Representation was provided by the Canadian Forces Health Services. Dr. Slavica DRAGISIC and Dr. Martin TEPPER attended the meeting.

The 1st Global Conference on Biological Threat Reduction, held in 2015, aimed to build cooperation for efficient health and security systems worldwide to reduce biological threats. The mandate of the OIE is to produce and support global standards to “prevent and control animal diseases, including zoonoses, ensure the sanitary safety of world trade in terrestrial and aquatic animals and animal products, and improve animal welfare.”  OIE efforts are linked to many common Public Health themes, including One Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, Food Safety and Biological Risks.

Carrying on from the 1st Conference, the theme of the 2nd Conference was “enhancing health and security for all”. The objectives included, highlighting contributions to biological threat reduction among different sectors and successful cross-sectoral partnerships, raising awareness of mechanisms in place to mitigate biological threats, supporting non-proliferation efforts, and exploring dual-use technologies. In her opening remarks, the OIE President commented on the successes of collaborations at the international level but noted that there was still a need for cross-sectoral partnerships at the national level. She also stressed the critical importance of maintaining the scientific expertise necessary to be able to mitigate risks.

The agenda covered a range of topics from overarching global perspectives to global security laws, laboratory capacity building and the use of open sourced data to predict and report on disease detection and epidemic emergencies. The full agenda and other conference details can be found at:

The following points are highlights from the meeting:

• From a global health perspective, preparedness for natural outbreaks will help mitigate the effects of unexpected biological events. From a global security perspective, prevention is a key activity, but building a sustainable capacity for biosecurity requires both education of law enforcement and a legal basis for biosecurity measures.

• Engagement of academia is a gap that should be addressed to improve biosafety and biosecurity in this sector.

• Policy changes cannot keep up with the rapid developments in biotechnology.

• Current non-proliferation instruments have no or limited verification mechanisms and require updating. Many lessons can be learned from the Chemical Weapons Convention experience.

• The dual use dilemma, finding the balance between supporting research which benefits health, and control measures to prevent misuse, is further complicated by the academic freedom sought by scientists to report detailed descriptions of their work.

• Capacity building in developing countries has yielded many successes, but sustainment will be an issue.

• There are several initiatives to improve biorisk education and create a culture of accountability, including the integration of biorisk management into university curricula, and development of programs to certify competency of individuals working with biological materials.

• The WHO is revising its 2004 Laboratory Safety Manual. The proposed revision uses a risk based approach where the extent of safety measures will be largely based on a local risk assessment.

• A project in Sierra Leone and Nigeria has produced a design for low resource diagnostic BSL2, 3 and biobank facilities that meet international standards. This project arose because biocontainment facilities are often too expensive and too complex to be operated and sustained in regions with limited resources.

• Given that many infectious diseases originate in animals before they infect humans, it was considered important to have a network that brings together animal and public health laboratories BSL4 facilities. BSL4ZNet provides a platform for animal and public health laboratories to work together.

• The Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the case that not all bioterror will be focused on human outcomes. They still have a mystery porcine epidemic virus in the US, and their data seems to suggest that it could have been a deliberate outbreak.

• There are several projects underway on the use of big data for detection and response to epidemics. Some of the challenges include balancing big data with some parts of the world less data rich, and the emergence of “fake news/fake data”.

• There is a need to better prepare and support the movement of international response as required by the International Health Regulations.

• The international veterinary community has undertaken activities since the declaration of rinderpest eradication to ensure that the world remains free of rinderpest. These include removing virus from laboratories and maintaining it in designated facilities and raising awareness of the disease. There are many parallels to smallpox eradication.

• The Global Virome project aims to develop a global atlas of the majority of the planet’s naturally occurring viral threats, making the world of emerging disease a data-rich field and driving the development of prevention efforts and countermeasures against future threats.

• The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations a new NGO is supporting development of vaccines against high priority pathogens and advancing platforms for vaccine development and manufacturing that are suitable for rapid response to emerging threats.

• Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency has a program which is seeking to discover biological mechanisms of high tolerance to disease to develop novel host-based interventions.

In conclusion, the biological threat is increasing and to address it requires a continuous investment by governments, legislative tools, awareness and education, and inter-sectoral collaboration.

The formal recommendations that arose from the OIE conference can be found at: