STAFF REPORT ISB: The fast pace of research in life sciences there is a need to develop skills of scientists and researchers to combat biological threats within the region by providing training on biosecurity, biosafety, pathogen surveillance, and infectious disease surveillance and disaster response.

This was the crux of the three-day Regional Workshop on Biosafety and Biosecurity in Life Sciences Research hosted by Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS) in collaboration with COMSATS and ISESCO, Islamabad.

The key objectives of this workshop were to provide hands-on training in biosafety and principles of biosecurity to researchers and to strengthen linkages among them.

Addressing to the participants, Secretary Climate Change, Syed Abu Ahmad Akif, said that today Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering are being used to tap the potential of DNA and microorganisms for addressing the most pressing issues related to food security, disease eradication.

In his view, it is a high-time to initiate efforts for developing a National Biosecurity Plan to address concerns regarding Pakistans preparedness for bio-threats in the sectors of environment, agriculture, health and others.

PAS Secretary General Dr. Zabta K. Shinwari said that research in Pakistan is progressing speedily as compared to the last ten years, now there is tenfold increase in research publications. We have well established system of research investigation in our institutes.

Dr. I.E. Qureshi, Executive Director, emphasized that such events have a strong intrinsic significance in view of the opportunities for information exchange, scientist-to-scientist interactivity and inspiration gained by junior researchers from the work of experienced scholars.

People from various backgrounds including academicians, researchers particularly from QAU and CIIT and scientists in the fields of Agriculture, Biosafety, Biosecurity, Life Sciences Research and Microbiology participated with great interest.

In his address, Dr. Khalid Banuri, Director General (ACDA), raised the point that the issue of dual-use science is not new. The best known example may be nuclear science, which can be used to produce energy (a peaceful purpose) or nuclear bombs. He also mentioned that likely threat to Pakistan can emerge from the use of biological weapons by Non-State Actors and by the accidental release of any Bio agents.

He is of the view that Pakistan has always encouraged strengthening of national/ international institutional efforts to counter potential misuse of bio technology.

In support of his point, Dr. Sana Zahoor, Assistant Professor VU, added that research with highly pathogenic microorganisms, like H5N1 influenza, anthrax among others, could derive into a serious biological threat to a population or even terrorism.

In his concluding remarks, M. Humayun, Secretary Ministry of Environment, said that the present political leadership of has identified a policy focus for building relevant international collaborations to gear the country towards a Biotechnology Revolution.

In his view, such workshops and informative gatherings would help disseminate more knowledge about Biosafety and Biosecurity in our country and the region.

While delivering his speech, Dr. AamerI kram, President, PBSA, told that developing countries face particular challenges with Cartagena Protocol because their capacity to implement, monitor and enforce biosafety laws remains weak.

Saima Tanveer, Science Officer, ECOSF, raised the need for regional network to promote awareness and understanding on ethics or laws – that might help to ensure and promote ethical behaviour in the region.

Gloria Imoh Bassey, Acting Director, NABDA, added that good laboratory practices and ethical considerations are required in all countries to save humanity from consequences of unwholesome practices in Biotechnology applications.

In the poster competition, Ali Raza with his fellows, QAU, secured first position and was awarded with cash prize of Rs. 5000. Somia Aman with her fellows from Abasyn University secured second position with a cash prize of Rs. 3000.

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