Biorisks, Biosecurity and Biological Disarmament Conference

4-5 July 2023
Biorisks, Biosecurity and Biological Disarmament Conference

Advances in science and technology are taking place at an unprecedented rate, making vital contributions to addressing major societal challenges. Yet, transformative developments in a wide range of fields can also pose risks to society. As such, it has become more important than ever to monitor opportunities and risks posed by advances in science and technology for the biosecurity regime. This cannot be done by any one actor alone, rather it will require collaborative efforts by states and stakeholders from civil society, academia and industry, along with other actors.

In order to facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement around biological security and biological disarmament, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) co-organized a stakeholder conference designed to bring together actors from civil society, academia and industry, along with diplomats, to stimulate the exchange of ideas and thinking around how to build biosecurity and bolster biological disarmament. The event provided an opportunity to discuss ongoing diplomatic processes and current and upcoming issues in the areas of biorisk, biosecurity and biological disarmament.


The recordings of this event are available on our YouTube Channel, and below.


The conference consisted of seven substantive panels covering a range of topics such as advances in science and technology, related risks and benefits, biosecurity implementation, dual-use governance, disease response, international cooperation, and verification technologies. In general, panels consisted of a moderated discussion followed by a questions and answers session with the audience in person and online. Structured input from participants were also encouraged in different panels.

Coffee breaks and a light lunch were provided on each day.


04 and 05 July 2023, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm CEST

This was a hybrid event. 

The conference took place at the Maison de la Paix, and virtually via Webex.


Day 1 – 4 July 2023

09.30-10.00: Registration and morning refreshments (30 min)

10.00-10.30: Welcoming remarks (30 min)

The conference began with welcome addresses from WHO, UNODA and UNIDIR representatives.


  • Melanie Regimbal, Chief of Geneva Branch, UNODA
  • John Reeder, Director of the Research for Health Department, Science Division, WHO
  • Robin Geiss, Director, UNIDIR

10.30-12.30: Panel 1 – Advances in science and technology: assessing the risks and opportunities (2 hours)

This panel explored key advances in the biological sciences and their positive and negative implications for biosecurity and biological disarmament. The panel included a discussion around foresight and was followed by a survey of participants on their perceptions of key risks and opportunities.


  • Beyza Unal, Head of Science & Technology Unit, UNODA (virtual)
  • Sandra Matinyi, Project Officer, SynBio Africa
  • Marion Laumonier, Technical Officer of the Emerging technologies, research prioritisation and support Unit, Science Division, WHO
  • Jonathan Forman, Science and Technology Advisor, US Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Seattle, Washington, USA

Moderator: James Revill, Head of Weapons of Mass Destruction Programme, UNIDIR

12.30-13.30: Lunch Break (1 hour)

13.30-15.00: Panel 2 – Transparency and national implementation: lessons learned and good practices (1.5 hours)

This panel discussed best practices and lessons learned related to building transparency, implementing biosecurity measures at the national level, and identifying gaps in the global biosecurity architecture.


  • Sonia Drobysz, Co-programme Director for National Implementation, VERTIC
  • Alexander Hamilton, CBRN CoE Regional Coordinator for Southeast Asia, UNICRI
  • Peter Ahabwe Babigumira, Technical Advisor, Uganda Ministry of Health (virtual)
  • O’Neil Hamilton, Expert on Non-Proliferation, Strategic Trade Management and Export Control Development, UNODC, and the Proliferation Prevention Program, Stimson Center
  • Yvette Issar, Political Affairs Officer, UNODA
  • Anastasia Malygina, Associate Professor, St Petersburg University (virtual)

Moderator: Alex Lampalzer, Deputy Chief of the BWC Implementation Support Unit, UNODA

15.00-15.30: Coffee break (30 min)

15.30-17.00: Panel 3 – Dual use governance: taking stock and looking forward (1.5 hours)

This panel explored governance initiatives related to the life sciences, drawing from ongoing initiatives such as the WOAH’s Guidelines for responsible conduct in veterinary research (2019), the Tianjin Biosecurity Guidelines for Codes of Conduct for Scientists (2021) and the WHO Global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences: mitigating biorisks and governing dual-use research (2022).

Part 1: PresentationsSetting the scene (40 min)


  • Leifan Wang, Assistant Professor, Tianjin University (virtual)
  • Keith Hamilton, Head Preparedness and Resilience Department, WOAH
  • Filippa Lentzos, Associate Professor, King’s College London

Moderator: Soatiana Rajatonirina, Technical Officer of the Emerging technologies, research prioritisation and support Unit, WHO

Part 2: Panel discussionDialogue on operationalization of the different initiatives (50 min)


  • Halima Benbouza, Professor, Director, National Council of Scientific Research and Technologies of Algeria
  • Maria Espona, Professor, Director, ArgIQ, Argentina
  • Irma Makalinao, Professor, University of the Philippines (virtual)
  • Emmanuel Turyatunga, Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda

Moderator: Emmanuelle Tuerlings, Technical Officer of the Emerging technologies, research prioritisation and support Unit, WHO.

Day 2 – 5 July 2023

09.00-10.00: Panel 4 – High-level roundtable (1 hour)

This panel focused on the perspectives of Member States from the Biological Weapons Convention, taking stock of the Ninth Review Conference which took place in 2022 and looking forward into the work of the recently established Working Group on Strengthening the Convention.


  • Izumi Nakamitsu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, UNODA (virtual message)
  • Flavio Damico, Ambassador, Special Representative of Brazil to the Conference on Disarmament
  • Leonardo Bencini, Ambassador, Special Representative of Italy to the Conference on Disarmament
  • Jonelle John S. Domingo, Second Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the UN
  • Filippa Lentzos, Associate Professor, King’s College London

Moderator: Simon Cleobury, Head of Arms Control and Disarmament, GCSP

10.00-11.30: Panel 5 – Detection, surveillance and reporting of disease outbreaks (1.5 hours)

The experience with COVID-19 has led to significant advances in technologies related to detecting, monitoring and reporting disease outbreaks. This panel explored these technologies and sought to map out how they could support biosecurity and biological disarmament.


  • Oommen John, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, India Country Office
  • Tomoko Steen, Director of the Biomedical Science Policy and Advocacy program, Georgetown University (virtual)
  • O’Neil Hamilton, Expert on Non-Proliferation, Strategic Trade Management and Export Control Development, UNODC, and the Proliferation Prevention Program, Stimson Center
  • Karl Schenkel, Unit Head for Strategy and Guidelines at Health Emergencies Programme, WHO

Moderator: Taylor Winkleman, Consultant, WHO

11.30-12.00: Working coffee break (30 min)

12.00-13.30: Panel 6 – International cooperation in biorisks, biosecurity and biological disarmament (1.5 hours)

This panel discussed challenges and opportunities for international cooperation in biorisks, biosecurity and biological disarmament. Panellists discussed cooperation to date and what steps could be taken to foster collaboration and cooperation in the future.


  • Andrew Nerlinger, Executive Director, Global Health Security Fund
  • Kirk Douglas, Director of the Centre for Biosecurity Studies, University of the West Indies
  • Maria Garzon Maceda, Associate Researcher for WMD Programme, UNIDIR
  • Nadia Wells, Senior Research Adviser, Global Health Centre, Geneva Graduate Institute

Moderator: Veronica Rovegno, Technical Officer of the Health Emergencies Preparedness and Response Unit, WHO

13.30-14.30: Lunch Break (1 hour)

14.30-16.00: Panel 7 – Monitoring and verification of the BWC (1.5 hours)

This final panel focused on technological opportunities to contribute to investigating suspicious disease outbreaks and verifying compliance with the BWC.


  • James Revill, Head of WMD Programme, UNIDIR
  • Melanie Reddiar, Head of Secretariat, South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of WMD
  • Ryan Teo, Research Assistant, University of Birmingham
  • Jez Littlewood, Independent expert (virtual)

Moderator: Una Jakob, Senior Researcher, HSFK University

16.00-16.30: Taking Stock (30 min)

To take stock of the conference, rapporteurs provided short remarks of each panel’s main take-aways.


  • Panel 1: Mayra Ameneiros
  • Panel 2: Judith Okolo
  • Panel 3: Fatima Aziz
  • Panel 4: Mariia Koroleva
  • Panel 5: Felix Moronta Barrios
  • Panel 6: Shizuka Kuramitsu
  • Panel 7: José Garza Martínez

16.30-16.45: Closing Remarks (15 min)

In closing, short remarks were provided by UNODA, WHO and UNIDIR representatives.

16.45-17.00: Farewell coffee (15 min)


The event was open to all individuals with a professional interest in biosecurity, biorisks and biological disarmament.