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WHO Launches Guide to Safely Unlock Benefits of Life Sciences

September 14, 2022 by Dan McCue
(Photo by Dan McCue)

The World Health Organization has launched a global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences.

The framework calls on leaders and other stakeholders to mitigate biorisks and safely govern dual-use research, which has a clear benefit but can be misused to harm humans, other animals, agriculture and the environment.

It addresses the decadeslong challenges of preventing the accidental and deliberate misuse of biology and other life sciences, as well as how to manage governance and oversight to both accelerate and spread innovation, while mitigating negative impacts.

The life sciences are increasingly crossing over with other fields, such as chemistry, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology, which changes the landscape of risks, with those that span multiple sectors and disciplines more likely to be misused.

Looking at how to manage the increasing pace of advances in the life sciences, the framework outlines the need for anticipatory and responsive governance mechanisms, including foresight approaches, which are participatory and multidisciplinary ways of exploring trends, emerging changes, systemic impacts and alternative futures.

To help manage risks, it covers issues such as preventing misinformation and disinformation, as well as managing large health data sets. Other topics include: increasing awareness and capacities for biorisk management, navigating the particular challenges around research on infectious diseases and preventing the misuse of research and technologies through collaboration among different actors and sectors.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and @DanMcCue

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