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Government unveils Biological Security Strategy

By June 16, 2023No Comments

The Government has unveiled its new Biological Security Strategy which aims to strengthen the UK’s defences against infectious diseases, biological attacks and antibiotic resistance.

The major new Strategy sets out clear actions on biosecurity, building upon the framework set out by the Government in 2018, and has been updated to reflect lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic. It outlines how the Government will tackle a wide range of threats head on – from bioterrorism to animal and plant diseases – by 2030.

The Government is investing heavily in biological security, with spending now more than £1.5 billion each year.

This funding underpins critical initiatives within the Strategy, including: identifying new diseases, incentivising responsible innovation in the biosciences, and progressing the “100 Days Mission” G7 pledge, and to accelerate new vaccine development.

Four pillars will underpin how the Strategy tackles biological threats:

Understanding the biological risks we face today and could face in the future;

Preventing biological risks from emerging or from threatening the UK’s interests;

Detecting and reporting biological risks early when they do emerge;

Responding to biological risks that have reached the UK to lessen their impact.

Part of this plan includes a new Biothreats Radar capable of scanning biological risks that pose a threat to the public will be key to the UK’s fight and preparation for future pandemics

Alongside the Biothreats Radar, the Strategy sets out a number of commitments, including:

  • Developing a National Biosurveillance Network to detect and monitor emerging biological threats to the UK
  • Establishing a new UK Biosecurity Leadership Council, bringing together academic and industry leaders to help establish the UK as a world leader in responsible innovation
  • Developing new UK-based microbial forensics tools and capabilities to support efforts to attribute biological incidents and deter the proliferation and use of biological weapons
  • Working with industry to further UK efforts to achieve the 100 Days Mission – reducing the impact of future pandemics by making vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics available within 100 days of a future outbreak
  • Formalising the leadership structures that oversee our biological security – including a lead minister who will report annually to Parliament
  • Establishing a Biological Security Task Force in the Cabinet Office to coordinate UK-wide efforts on biological security, including exercising our response to future threats

The UK is already Europe’s leading biotechnology hub and these commitments will further bolster the UK’s strength in this area.

Diagnostics are name-checked several times throughout the strategy, with the Government pledging to implement these measures:

  • Continue to provide assistance with the development of effective pathogen security, biosafety, diagnostics and disease surveillance in partner countries.
  • Implement a new strategic approach to diagnostics, including prototype diagnostics against priority pathogens.
  • Develop and evaluate prototype vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for priority pathogens of pandemic potential.
  • Enhance capability to rapidly roll out diagnostics for population use in response to new or existing biological threats.

The Government claimed the UK is ideally placed to tackle these threats, concluding: ‘The UK is well positioned to seize the opportunities of this new innovation wave, stimulating our vibrant life sciences and artificial intelligence sectors22 to develop market leading biosecurity solutions (detection systems, novel diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics), that also support the Life Sciences Vision 2021/23 to drive growth across the UK.’

Ben Kemp