By Gift Briton

In an effort to mitigate risks associated with life science research, the World Health Organization(WHO) has urged countries to adopt the Global Guidance Framework on Responsible Use of Life Sciences as a critical guidance tool for preventing and mitigating biological risks caused by accidents, unanticipated and deliberate misuse of research with the intention to cause harm to humans, animals and entire ecosystem.

The WHO made this call at the ongoing regional two-day (24th -25th) workshop in Nairobi Kenya aimed at popularizing the global guidance framework in the continent. The workshop has drawn participants and partners from various sectors including environment, human, veterinary and agriculture across 11 countries globally.

According to the organization, research and applications in life sciences (research into living organisms) is critical in improving global health and contributing to a better understanding of diseases, and the development of new drugs and vaccines among others. However, development and advances in life sciences raise ethical, legal, societal, safety, and security risks.

Group Photo of the members who attended the workshop in Nairobi

Speaking during the workshop, Dr. Abdourahmane Diallo, WHO country representative for Kenya said the governance of bio-risks is an issue that should engage all countries, despite having different contexts, needs and starting points.

He added that the implementation of the global guidance framework in the African region will contribute to the strengthening of health research governance, biosafety and biosecurity regimes and foster ethics and research integrity.

“It is my expectation that this regional workshop marks the starting point for the implementation of activities at regional and national levels,” Dr. Diallo said.

Dr. Joseph Okeibunor Lead research, development, and innovation team, WHO AFRO noted that although research is meant to get evidence on how to better human lives, some people may use it for good or bad reasons (dual-use research) including as a biological element for purposes of war.

Therefore, Dr. Okeibunor notes that WHO is focusing on reducing those kinds of risks where harmful biological elements are accidentally or intentionally released into the environment. Also, the organization is trying to promote the responsible use of research so that people do not use research, particularly biological research, to harm humanity but to benefit humanity, animals and the ecosystem.

Further, to provide basic standard operating procedures(SOPs) for ensuring that biosafety and biosecurity are anchored in all research activities, the WHO guidance framework outlines procedures to be followed by researchers.

“I urge countries to adopt and domesticate these guidelines and because countries have different realities, they can adapt elements of the guidelines into their own reality to address country-specific needs and to protect their citizens,” he said.