8th Biennial Meeting Report of the IEGBBR

Due to the COVI-19 pandemic, the IEGBBR hosted its 8th biennial meeting virtually on March 3rd and 11th, 2021, to discuss challenges encountered with regulatory biosafety and biosecurity oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic provided a situation that tested the national biosafety and biosecurity oversight systems of the IEGBBR member countries. Despite all the pandemic planning and preparations undertaken well in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic and the established oversight systems of IEGBBR member countries, an event of this scale and duration presented numerous challenges. The goal of the meeting was therefore to develop reference materials that could assist other countries in their pandemic response, based on the knowledge and expertise of IEGBBR member countries. The IEGBBR meeting report is intended to serve as capacity-building material to benefit biosafety and biosecurity oversight systems in the broader global community, towards increased global health security with respect to SARS-CoV-2 and other biological agents posing a public health risk.

The IEGBBR meeting report indicates that regulators largely relied upon available national regulatory tools to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The existing legislative biosafety and/or biosecurity frameworks in IEGBBR member countries were generally structured to allow effective public health response to any pandemic, including the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a consensus that regulatory oversight should not impede efforts necessary for public health service or response during the COVID-19 pandemic, but at the same time would provide appropriate biosafety and biosecurity guidance and recommendations to allow the necessary work to proceed safely. Areas where regulators experienced significant challenges included adapting the regulatory oversight programs to allow for pandemic response, handling of human clinical COVID-19 diagnostics, risk assessment and dual-use issues, risk group categorization, transporting of specimens, the interface of human and animal pathogen oversight, identifying occupational exposure, and emerging technology. The meeting report expands on each of these areas and describes lessons learned and challenges experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic by IEGBBR member countries. The meeting concluded on the premise that the biosafety and biosecurity oversight systems will have to be adapted according to the future path of the COVID-19 pandemic, which remains unknown.

The eight-page meeting report is available for download.

Additional IEGBBR Work

The IEGBBR shares knowledge and experience and provides lessons learned from the perspectives of their established regulatory systems, in order to coordinate and lead concurrent projects related to the international alignment, strengthening, and advancement of biosafety and biosecurity oversight. Through the Secretariat, the IEGBBR is in a position to influence and help advance key priority areas, including the following initiatives:

  • Poliovirus containment – World Health Organization and Global Polio Eradication Initiative Global Action Plan (GAPIII) biorisk management
  • Multi-regional perspectives provided in feedback to World Health Organization on the draft of the fourth edition of the Laboratory Biosafety Manual
  • Global Health Security Agenda Action Package Prevent 3 (APP3)