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Can the Biological Weapons Convention address new biothreats?


COVID-19 has highlighted the need for the convention to adapt to a new biothreat landscape and address new pathways to infectious disease outbreaks.

The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the significant societal benefits of recent scientific and technological advances, such as the use of synthetic biology in vaccine development and of gene editing tools such as CRISPR in the development rapid diagnostic tests. But with these advances comes the challenge of ensuring they are used responsibly and for peaceful purposes.

The dual-use nature of many new biological techniques pose significant challenges for governance, particularly as new and complex synergies emerge between biology and other disciplines, such as chemistry, artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber technologies.

At the same time, emerging technologies are lowering the barriers to entry into the life sciences, making potentially harmful biological agents more accessible to a diverse range of actors. These developments have diversified biothreats beyond what was originally concieved by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), introducing new and more interconnected pathways for the hostile use of biological agents.

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