Bradford Disarmament Research Centre
Division of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, UK
National Series
Lecture 1
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1. Where we are in the early 21st
2. Outline of the following lectures
a) What we should know
(learning outcome)
b) What we can do
(policy contribution)
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What is “Life Science”?
• “Any field of science that is leading to or has the potential to lead to
an enhanced understanding of living organisms, especially human
• E.g. Biology, proteomics, genetic engineering, nanotechnology,
aerosol technology, chemistry and mathematics
(National Research Council, 2006: 27)
Applied in:
Public health, Medicine, Agriculture, Energy, Environment and
National security studies
An integral part of national strategy in the 21st Century
A growing market in Biotechnology: the pharmaceutical market
(National Research Council, 2006: 85)
Annual Worth
North America
$204 Billion
$102 Billion
$47 Billion
Asia, Africa, Australia
$32 Billion
Latin America
$17 Billion
Similar results in number of researchers and the amount of private
investment for R&D in the life sciences
Rapid growth in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East
(Ernst&Young 2011, Frost&Sullivan 2010)
Tunisia: Life science outlook
Global publication ranking
2011 Ranking
2005 Ranking
Ranking Change
2011 Regional Ranking
1 in N. Africa
2005 Regional Ranking
2 in N. Africa
Hits in PubMed
PubMed Ranking
Hit in Espacenet
Espacenet Ranking
Combined Ranking
• The BioWeapons Monitor 2011’s
survey indicates … that a number of
countries outside of Europe and
North America, such as Colombia,
India, Iran, the Republic of Korea,
Thailand and Tunisia, have climbed
up many rungs of the ladder of
science and technology holders over
the past six years.
Source: (BWPP 2011)
Tunisia: Science outlook
The Tunisian Association of Biotechnology
Established in 1983, objectives of association is classified among associations
scientist, the objectives are:
• To help the members with thorough their general knowledge, like professional and
to facilitate the cultural communications and scientist between them .
• To encourage the innovation with the various fields of biotechnology on the level of
research as well as the industrial applications.
• The opening on the economy and to make the connection between the researchers
and the representatives of the industrial sector in the biotechnological fields.
• The participation in the diffusion of information related to biotechnology.
• To make relation scientists and technical with similar associations in other
countries. (ATBT 2012)
Tunisia: Science outlook
The Ministry of Scientific Research, Technology and Competency
Development (MSRTCD)
MSRTCD is in charge of formulating the national policy and strategy in the field of
scientific research and technological development, including:
Drafting and following up of plans, implementation strategies, and the determination
of priorities and programs in the scientific research, technological innovation and
competency development sector;
Management of financial resources coming from public and private sectors and
from international cooperation to the benefit of the scientific research;
Proposing appropriate mechanisms for an optimal use of scientific equipment within
the framework of partnership conventions with production structures;
Spreading the culture of intellectual property and patents among researchers and
Preparing strategies for international cooperation and follow up of international
agreements; Involvement of Tunisian scientific competencies abroad in the
determination, execution and evaluation of research programs.
Tunisia: Life science outlook
• Centre of Biotechnology of Sfax (CBS) CBS was launched in 1983 in a
small corner of the University of Sfax’s School of Engineering. Today
the institute sits at the centre of its own campus, a tangible reflection of
a US$10-million investment with 200-plus staff of scientists, engineers,
technicians and students. (TWAS 2008)
Major Areas of Biotech Development (1)
In 2004, in Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology, Tebourski and
Ammar-Elgaaied analysed three major areas of biotechnology
development in Tunisia as follows organ transplant (OT), assisted
reproductive techniques (ART), and genetically modified organisms
Organ Transplant
• “Conditions offered for OT development concern information, specialized
structures, and legislation. Good level of information is provided by radio
and TV programs and by papers in the local press on organ donation. A
National Day of Organ Donation Awareness has been instituted.
With regard to legislation, two laws are particularly in favour of OT: the law
91-22 created in March 1991 and regulating OT [1] and the law on the
“donor mention” registered on the National Identity Card of the donor [2].
The spirit of these laws was to promote organ donation.”
Major Areas of Biotech Development (2)
Assisted Reproductive Techniques
The second technology which is much in demand is the ART. A percentage of
10%–15% of Tunisian couples are concerned, with 6000 to 8000 candidates
for ART per year. With regard to the success rate, it was about 7%–20%. The
available methods proposed to couples suffering from infertility are artificial
insemination, in vitro fertilization, and the microinjection technique.
In a study performed in another African country, it was found that one out of
thirteen patients who were referred to ART centres was able to achieve her
objective of motherhood [6]
At the legislative level, there was a lack of a law regulating ART until July 2001.
At this period the [National Medical Ethics Committee] NMEC gave some rules
to conduct ART that take into account the Islamic viewpoint
(Tebourski and Ammar-Elgaaied, 2004)
Major Areas of Biotech Development (3)
Genetically Modified Organisms
In Tunisia, only microorganisms and plants are involved in the gene
technology. All experiences are enclosed in laboratories and research centres
and there is no GMO culture in fields (ie, field-testing). With regard to animal
feeding, corn and soya grains are imported without certification.
As a very high percentage (about 80%) of sailed corn in the world is
transgenic, we think that corn bought in Tunisia is GM. Indeed, until now there
was no procedure control and the country needs great quantity of corn for
animal use.
Moreover, there is no research on GM animals in Tunisia and officially there is
no GM-based seed or seedling. Probably by application of the famous
precautionary principle, researchers and other actors are waiting for a clear
GMO policy.
(Tebourski and Ammar-Elgaaied, 2004)
Major Areas of Biotech Development (4)
GMO (Legislative challenges)
• Tunisia currently has no legal framework dealing with the use and
release of products of agricultural biotechnology. New legislation on
biotech products were expected to be finalized and adopted by the
parliament before the end of 2010.
• However, it seems that this legislation will be further delayed due to the
lack of consensus among Tunisian policy-makers, influenced by the EU
position on GMO issues. Until the adoption of a legal framework, the
imports of biotech products into Tunisia continue to be treated the
same way as the conventional agricultural products.
(Ahmed and Chahed, 2010)
PubMed search with “Tunisia”
Key word hits in Publication data base
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Nanotechnology in Tunisia
Tunisia launches first nanotech project
(SciDevNet, 11 January 2010)
• “Tunisia has launched the first project applying nanotechnology in the
Arab Maghreb region of north western Africa.
• The project aims to monitor and purify the waters of the Medjerda
River, the longest river in Tunisia.
• Three mobile laboratories will monitor river water, after which data will
be analysed at a new research centre.
• The project, partially funded and supported by Belgium, is the first
project of the Tunisian Association for Environmental Nanotechnology.
The association was set up in December 2008 but it took a year to
convince policymakers of the importance of nanotechnology,
particularly for providing water suitable for drinking and irrigation, say
the scientists.”
Why do we care?
Should this be an issue for us?
The dual-use nature of science and technology:
– “Every major technology — metallurgy, explosives, internal
combustion, aviation, electronics, nuclear energy — has been
intensively exploited, not only for peaceful purposes but also for
hostile ones.”
– “…Must this also happen with biotechnology, certain to be a
dominant technology of the twenty-first century?”
Matthew Meselson: Professor of Molecular Biology at Harvard University
(Meselson, 2000: 16)
Meselson’s Forecast in 2000
• “Our ability to modify fundamental life processes
continues its rapid advance”
• “We will be able not only to devise additional ways to
destroy life but will also become able to manipulate it”
• “…[This has a] Vast potential for beneficial application
and could have inimical consequences for the course
of civilization.”
Meselson’s Forecast in 2000
“At present, we appear to be approaching a crossroads —a time that
will test whether biotechnology…”
• Will come to be intensively exploited for hostile purposes, or
• Our species will find the collective wisdom to take a different course.
Biological and Toxin Weapons
Convention (BTWC)
Article I
• “Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any
circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or
• 1. 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.”
• This applies not only to states but also to non-state actors
Science and Security: Dual-Use
The need for a broader conceptualisation of dual-use
• Biological agents and toxins can be used for hostile purposes without
weaponization and technology is typically diffused globally for peaceful
• Hostile use can take the form of criminal acts or terrorist acts (nonstate level) in parallel to military application (state level),
• The BTWC prohibits the misuse of the life sciences by both states and
non-state actors
Dual-use: traditional concept
Dual-use: broader concept
Tunisia and international regimes
• Signature (10 April 1972); Ratification (18 May
• Signature (13 January 1993); Ratification (15
April 1995)
National Series: Lecture Outline
2. Biosecurity Threats
3. The Web of Prevention
4. National Measures
5. Responsibility of Scientists
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Reviewing threats (Lecture 2)
Natural outbreaks of
infectious disease
Safety/accidental risks at
Manmade threats: warfare,
crime and terrorism
Unpredictable future of the
life sciences
• ‘No single focal point’ of threats
– Potential actors, material and information, which can be related to dualuse issues, exist at international, regional, national, local and individual
The Web of Prevention (WoP) (Lecture 3)
To address natural outbreaks of infectious disease
Public health preparedness and response planning
To address safety/accidental risks
Laboratory regulations to safely manage dangerous pathogens and
toxins, to prevent an accidental release into the environment and
unauthorized access
To address manmade threats
Strong international arms control agreements with effective national
Internationally coordinated export controls
To address the unpredictable future of the life sciences
Oversight: Review of security-sensitive science and technology
Responsible conduct in research through education
Public health
Safety risks
and review
of Sci-Tech
Web of
of science
National implementation (Lecture 4)
To National Context
National implementation (Lecture 4)
• International agreements
• Signature and ratification by states
• National measures in states
• Legislation, regulation, order or other forms
of governance
The need for responsible conduct in research
(Lecture 5)
Worldwide engagement of life scientists with the WoP will:
• Effectively strengthen biosecurity measures by requiring the
engagement of practicing scientists
• Prevent unnecessary restriction of scientific freedoms
Engagement of informed life scientists about
biosecurity issues is key to successful security
• Education of, and capacity building among, scientists on biosecurity
issues is necessary for successful security
• Uninformed scientists = no effective science policy inputs to the
Biosecurity: Definition issues
The term “biosecurity” has been conceptualised differently across
various scientific and professional disciplines
• Areas: The term has been used in ecology, agriculture, food supply,
arms control and public health contexts, with different meanings and
• Policy processes: these overlap with interdisciplinary areas such as
biosafety, counter-terrorism, agricultural biosecurity and biodiversity
• Linguistic: In addition to these conceptual complications,
“biosecurity” has also experienced linguistic complications
(Fidler and Gostin 2007, Sunshine Project 2003, Barletta 2002)
National Series:
WoP = Biosecurity Education = Biosecurity Competency
• The references cited in this lecture are
viewable in the Notes section of this

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