On the 19th of January, the Dutch Association of Biosafety Officers (BVF platform) and the Netherlands Commission on Genetic Modification (COGEM) organized an international meeting in Amsterdam to identify and evaluate challenges in evidence-based-biosafety. The programme of the symposium was set up to inform the participants about the current effectivity of containment measures and the extent of incidents, accidents and emergencies. Based on these insights, the meeting intended to discuss the need for change in the field of evidence-based biosafety.
After the formal opening by Sybe Schaap (Chair COGEM) and an introduction by chair Tjeerd Kimman (Wageningen University & Research), the first session addressed the effectivity of containment measures. Felix Gmünder from Basler & Hofmann discussed the engineering and architectural requirements of high biocontainment facilities, followed by Allan Bennet from Public Health England who identified human error as an important factor in biosafety incidents. Gigi Kwik Gronvall (UPMC center for Health Security) highlighted the national differences in biosafety regulations and emphasized the need for international biosafety norms. Finally in this session, the importance of a specific calamity training program for hazardous biological agents was discussed in a presentation from Reinoud Wolter (Publich Health Rotterdam-Rijnmond) and Cathy Bakker (Erasmus Medical Center).
Up next, the actual extent of incidents and accidents in life-science research were presented from an international perspective by Anna Papa (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki). Subsequently, a detailed national inventory of laboratory–acquired incidents (LAI’s) was presented by Nicolas Willemarck from the Biosafety and Biotechnology Unit in Belgium and by Margot Spreuwenberg from the Dutch Inspectorate for Human Environment and Transport.
Different (international) perspectives and their implications for future biosafety governance where discussed in a final session. Andrew Weber (Former Deputy Coordinator for Ebola Response at the U.S. Department of State) discussed biosafety in a broader context from a biosecurity perspective. Kazunobu Kojima (World Health Organization) provided background and presented the recent revision of the WHO biosafety manual. Based on the insights of today’s presentations, the need for change in the field of biosafety were discussed between speakers and the audience during a round table debate chaired by Gijsbert van Willigen (President of the European Biosafety Association).
The symposium was concluded by Mieke Jansen (Chair of the Dutch Association of Biosafety Officers), who highlighted some key questions in relation to future biosafety challenges.
The organizing committee looks back at this successful event with great satisfaction. Once more, we would like to thank all speakers and participants for their valuable contributions.
Photos: Erik Kottier