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19 February 2024

King's expert leads advisory group set up to enhance global health security

Dr Filippa Lentzos has been appointed as the Chair of a World Health Organization (WHO) advisory group that aims to shape strategies on the responsible use of life sciences and dual-use research.

Two researchers dressed in protective equipment look at a computer in lab.

Dr Lentzos, an expert in Science and International Security in the Department of War Studies at King’s, will lead the new Technical Advisory Group on the Responsible Use of the Life Sciences and Dual-Use Research (TAG-RULS DUR). The group will advise the WHO on  safety hazards and security threats arising from breakthroughs in the life sciences and research that can be applied for both beneficial and harmful purposes. 

The group of 19 experts from across the world, from disciplines including biosecurity, emerging biological technologies and risk communication, will offer independent guidance to the WHO as well as advise member states on governance of dual-use research and approaches to biorisk management.

There is a pressing need to monitor and anticipate risks stemming from advances in the life sciences and to improve biorisk mitigation. TAG-RULS DUR, which draws together experts from across the world, will have a significant role in guiding the WHO’s efforts to set evolving international standards for safe, secure and responsible use of the life sciences. It is a privilege to bring in my expertise and to lead the group.

Dr Filippa Lentzos

From groundbreaking advancements in cell and gene therapies to the incorporation of generative AI in drug discovery, technological innovation in the life sciences holds immense potential for enhancing health, society, and the environment. However, amidst these opportunities lie inherent risks, including safety hazards and security threats arising from both accidental incidents and intentional misuse for harmful purposes, such as the development of harmful biological weapons.

WHO issued the Global Guidance Framework for the Responsible Use of Life Sciences: Mitigating Biorisks and Governing Dual-Use Research in September 2022, providing mechanisms for policymakers and regulators to navigate the complexities of dual-use research safely and mitigate biorisks to humans, animals and the environment. The framework offers a holistic approach to safeguarding global health, encompassing infectious diseases, misinformation and disinformation and the management of extensive health datasets.

Having convened for the first time in January 2024, the advisory group will support and expand on this framework by advising Member States and stakeholders on developing and implementing biorisk management tailored to their specific contexts. They will also look to develop tools to support capacity-building, education and training focused on biorisk mitigation and the governance of dual-use research.

A report on the inaugural meeting of TAG-RULS DUR is available to read here. You can also find out more about TAG-RULS DUR on the WHO’s website.

In this story

Filippa Lentzos

Reader in Science and International Security