Statement of Task

An ad hoc committee with significant international membership will be organized by the NRC to:

•   Plan an international workshop to survey key trends in areas of science & technology (S&T) that might be potentially relevant to the development of new or more deadly biological weapons and/or to developments in detection, diagnostics, therapeutics, or vaccines that could affect potential prevention and response to biological attacks. The developments in science discussed at the workshop are likely to be in areas such as immunology, neuroscience, synthetic biology, aerosol and other controlled delivery mechanisms, or others; the specific S&T areas and trends to be discussed during the workshop will be selected by the committee.

•   Prepare a report of the workshop that would provide findings, based on the consensus of the committee, about the state of the science in the topics discussed at the workshop. The report will also explore potential implications for the Biological Weapons Convention as an independent input from the scientific community to the treaty’s Seventh Review Conference in 2011. The report would not make recommendations about actions to address any of the potential implications.

•   In advance of the final report, a brief, staff-authored summary will be produced as a stand-alone document to provide a factual overview of the technical material presented by the speakers.

The workshop provided an opportunity for the scientific community to discuss the implications of recent developments in S&T for multiple aspects of the BWC (a brief description of the key provisions of several relevant BWC articles may be found in Box S.2). For example, a continuing question for the treaty’s review conferences is whether scientific developments yield new or novel types of agents or materials that are not captured by Article I, which defines the scope of the treaty’s prohibitions as “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.” More broadly, however, developments in S&T also affect the other key articles of the convention that provide for the treaty’s operation, such as the adequacy of national implementation of the convention through national policies and regulatory systems (Article IV), the capabilities to carry out investigations of alleged use of biological weapons (Article VI), and the design of international cooperation to ensure that all States Parties (i.e., those who have signed and ratified the agreement) have access to the benefits of peaceful applications of biology (Article X).

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