Funded by the European Union
P81 National Simulation Exercise Thailand
16 - 18 November 2022
Project 81 Lead, John Jones OBE, opens the exercise
EU CBRN CoE Project 81 BIOSEC facilitates the delivery of a national-level Simulation Exercise in partnership with Thailand’s Department of Medical Sciences
One of the main aims of Project 81 which is funded by the EU is to raise awareness of the security issues associated with handling high-risk biological material – including highly infectious pathogens. Whilst most scientists and technicians are very familiar with safety guidance including the use of protective equipment, it is often true that they are less conversant with the potential risks of deliberate misuse of those pathogens.
Project 81 had started to provide consultancy services, awareness-raising workshops and specialist training sessions but within a few months of the project launch SARS-CoV-2 struck. The impact of COVID-19 has been extensive and, in addition to creating the obvious delays to other international projects, because of the subject matter of Project 81 the pandemic has caused a shift in priorities which could not have been anticipated when the project was designed. Flexibility has therefore become the key to successful delivery of the aims of Project 81.
A good example of the success of this more flexible approach is the facilitation and resourcing of a major national Simulation Exercise (SimEx) in partnership with Thailand’s Department of Medical Sciences which is part of the Ministry of Health. Thailand identified three areas which could be supported by Project 81, one of which was the design and implementation of the SimEx to validate arrangements for dealing with the release of an infectious disease in a neighbouring country. The location selected for the SimEx was the Regional Medical Sciences Centre No 8 (RMSC8) in Udon Thani.
The Project 81 experts planned the outline scenario and designed the management arrangements for the exercise which were then refined and adopted by the Thai team. During the planning process there was a gradual hand-over of responsibility from the Project to the Exercise Controllers from the RMSC until the exercise went “live” and was entirely managed by Thai colleagues. There were 80 participants at the exercise drawn from all RMSCs across Thailand with representation from the National Institute of Health (NIH), Food and Drag Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Animal Health. Here is the link to the official news release
This was an excellent illustration of collaboration and sharing of expertise between EU and Thailand. In addition, the team at Udon Thani are now fully confident in the design and management of future exercises and can provide consultancy support to other RMSCs if they wish to deliver their own exercises.
The P81 consortium team is led by Sustainable Justice Criminal Solutions (Europe) from Belgium with partners including the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the Dutch National Laboratories from the Netherlands (RIVM) and the Verification Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC) from the UK.
Confidence Building Measures workshop for Lao People PDR
Project 81 Key Expert Legal Sonia Drobysz participates in CBM workshop for Lao People PDR
On 3 and 4 November 2022 in Vientiane, Lao PDR, the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative (EU CBRN CoE), under EU CBRN CoE Project 62 (On-Site Technical Assistance to Southeast Asia), offered national authorities from Lao PDR hands on training on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) under the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). This workshop, led by Prof. Irma Makalinao of the Philippines, was a tremendous example of intra-regional cooperation aiming to strengthen compliance with the BWC and build transparency through the CBM mechanism.
Project 81 Key Expert Legal Sonia Drobysz (Co-Programme Director for National Implementation at the Verification, Research Training and Information Centre) joined virtually on 3 November for a session focusing on Lao PDR’s implementing legislation for the BWC. As part of Work Package 2 of the project, VERTIC’s National Implementation Measures Team is working with partner countries, including Lao PDR, towards strengthening biosecurity legislation. This involves preparing comprehensive analyses of countries’ legislation for the implementation of the BWC, measures for personnel accessing biological agents and toxins, and the International Health Regulations, with a view to identifying gaps and areas requiring strengthening. During the workshop, Sonia presented the methodology and findings of Lao PDR’s BWC legislation survey, and explained how it could inform the preparation of CBM Form E on relevant legislation for the BWC.
Supporting the enhancement of biosecurity in South East Asia
EU CBRN CoE Project 81 ‘BIOSEC - Enhanced Biosecurity in South-East Asia’ is led by the implementer Sustainable Criminal Justice Solutions in cooperation with other European entities. The project aims at providing a set of tools for improving biosecurity management systems in South East Asia with a focus on capacity-building directed at highly communicable diseases with global catastrophic potential, including pandemics.
Launched in 2019, BIOSEC is active in Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Project 81 contributes to the development of Singapore’s Biorisk Code of Conduct for Life Sciences Industry and Professionals
On 29 June 2022 the Biorisk Association of Singapore (BAS) launched Singapore’s Biorisk Code of Conduct for Life Sciences Industry and Professionals, an important document that seeks to prevent the potential misuse of life sciences by promoting a culture of responsibility amongst those involved in activities with biohazardous materials.
The Code was developed by the BAS with support from Singapore’s Ministry of Health. Project 81 legal experts also provided comments on the Code’s drafts and presented on dual-use research governance during the online launch event. This contribution furthers the objectives of Project 81’s Work Package 2 which focuses on the review and strengthening of Partner Countries’ biosecurity legislation in-line with relevant international instruments.
The Code aims to ensure the promotion of best practices stemming from the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention, UN Security Council Resolution 1540, the International Health Regulations and WHO biosecurity guidance, as well as compliance with relevant national acts and regulations. It lays down appropriate principles of ethical standards, awareness raising, risk assessment and mitigation, oversight and accountability, and communications.
Scientists, research institutions, industry and funding agencies in Singapore are encouraged to incorporate elements of the Code in their institutional and company practices, protocols, and guidelines.
The COC can be accessed from this link: https://biorisk.sg/home/2022/09/13/the-singapore-biorisk-code-of-conduct-for-life-sciences-industry-and-professionals/.
Project 81 BIOSEC: Making Progress in a Pandemic
by John Jones, P81 Project Leader, 23rd May 2022
As part of our project plan, the Project 81 team created a risk register in 2019. Amongst the risks listed was, “Natural disasters and infectious diseases”. Our proposed risk mitigation measure at that time was, “If it becomes unsafe or logistically impracticable to conduct a visit, training or workshop at the scheduled time, the Project Team Leader will seek to defer the visit and reschedule once the risk has passed.
Whilst we can congratulate ourselves on correctly identifying the risk, who could have predicted in 2019 that the time for the risk to pass would be in excess of two years?
In terms of project delivery, the main “casualty” of the pandemic continues to be the various in-country and regional workshops which have been rendered impossible by travel or quarantine restrictions and the fact that the main target audience for P81 is composed of the staff dealing with real-life public health issues. In addition, the ebbs and flows of the disease have brought with them constantly shifting restrictions on travel and self-isolation – often introduced at short notice.
Moving forward has therefore demanded a degree of flexibility which would have been impossible to anticipate when the original project plan was put in place. Nevertheless, flexibility in our approach has been the key to making progress during this period.
A good example was a visit to the National Focal Point in Bangkok as soon as restrictions eased in December 2021, which enabled some fact-finding and the joint identification of options for the future.
Some of the project work packages were always designed to be carried out mainly by correspondence – for example, the surveys of legislation in partner countries which are being delivered by a combination of questionnaires, desk-based research and online meetings with officials. Thanks to the continuing support of the National Focal Points, most of those surveys are now ready for review.
As vaccination programmes roll out and travel restrictions begin to ease across the SEA region further missions are now being planned for the coming months.
CBRN CoE Project 81 Webinar: “Trends in Project 81 Partner Countries’ Legislative Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic”
On 27 January 2022, Project 81 BIOSEC – Enhanced Biosecurity in South-East Asia hosted a webinar entitled “Novel pathogen detection and sequencing”, There were 33 delegates from partner countries and international organisations participating in the event. The main aim of the webinar was to explore the different legal and regulatory tools applied to the control of COVID-19
The webinar was opened by Mr. John Jones, Team Leader and Key Expert for Project 81, who gave a brief overview of the project, with a welcome address from Attorney Florentino Manalastas, Alternate Head of Regional Secretariat for South East Asia. After a short update from the Team Leader, Dr Sonia Drobysz and her colleagues in VERTIC, delivered an analysis of the trends in legislation as part of the overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic with a particular focus on the international picture and the International Health Regulations and other legal obligations as well as the regional response in ASEAN countries.
CBRN CoE Project 81 Webinar: “Waste Management in Pandemics”
On 11 August 2021, Project 81 BIOSEC – Enhanced Biosecurity in South East Asia hosted the latest webinar in a series of webinars dedicated to developing surge capacity to respond to pandemics within the framework of the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative (EU CBRN CoE).
The webinar was opened by Mr. John Jones O.B.E., Team Leader and Key Expert for Project 81, with welcome addresses from Atty. Florentino Manalastas, Jr., Assistant Head of the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for South East Asia (RS SEA) and Dr. Robert Frank, Regional Cooperation Officer for SEA for Global and Trans-Regional Threats. A panel of experts, including Dr. Christopher Logue, Public Health England (PHE), Dr. Alexander Hamilton, CBRN CoE Regional Coordinator for SEA, and Dr. Sabai Phyu, On-Site Assistance (OSA) Expert for SEA, were available to take questions from delegates.
The featured presentation was delivered by Mr. Thomas Pottage (PHE) who described the latest scientific data on the viability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on a variety of surfaces and the implications for the management of waste materials generated in a variety of environments including healthcare and domestic waste.
The webinar attracted 55 delegates from across the SEA region as well as Barbados, Ghana, and Australia. Delegates posed questions about legislation and practical measures for the inactivation of waste (including waste water). Further information provided by PHE can be found in the 'Learning' section of this website.
CBRN CoE Project 81 Webinar: “Surge Capacity Assessment Tool”
On 21 July 2021, Project 81 BIOSEC – Enhanced Biosecurity in South-East Asia hosted a webinar as the first in a series of webinars dedicated to developing surge capacity to respond to pandemics within the context of the EU CBRN Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence Initiative.
The webinar was attended by 73 delegates (predominantly from within the SEA region) and was opened by Mr. John Jones O.B.E., Team Leader and Key Expert for Project 81, with welcome addresses from Attorney Florentino Manalastas Jr., Alternate Head of the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for South East Asia, Manila, and Dr. Robert Frank, Regional Cooperation Officer for South-East Asia – Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (Global and Trans-Regional Threats).
In his remarks, Atty. Manalastas spoke to the importance of WP7 as a means of supporting Partner Countries in South East Asia to not only more effectively respond to COVID-19 but also to be more fully prepared for future pandemics. Dr. Frank, in his address, described the overall context of Project 81 within the CBRN CoE Initiative and welcomed all participants.
Detailed presentations on the use of the newly-created Surge Capacity Assessment Tool (SCAT) for Laboratories were provided by Dr. Joris Sprokholt and Dr. Iris Vennis of the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). A short panel discussion at the end of the webinar gathered perspectives from Prof. Stuart Blacksell, MORU Thailand, Dr. Tessy Joseph from the National University of Singapore and Dr. Nguyen Thanh Thuy of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Viet Nam.
The next webinar in the series will be held on 11 August 2021 and will address Waste Management issues during pandemics and future webinars will focus on End-to-end laboratory diagnosis (September), Preparedness and rapid response (October), New Variant sequencing (November) and Legal frameworks in pandemics (December). E-learning packages will be made available for some of the topics listed.
'Developing Surge Capacity for Pandemics' - Launch of Webinar Series - 30th June 2021
The project team is pleased to announce a series of monthly webinars that commence on the 21st July and continue through to the end of the year.
The first webinar will introduce an assessment tool for laboratory managers and operational personnel. The tool is designed to assist in the identification of areas which might require additional attention as part of preparations for a future or emerging epidemic. In due course invitations to all events will be circulated through National Focal Points.
Whilst final topics are yet to be confirmed, themes such as 'Preparedness & Response', 'End to End Laboratory Diagnosis' and 'New Variant Sequencing' are likely to be covered.
Webinar - WHO Laboratory Biosafety Manual, 4th Edition - 9th February 2021
Prof. Stuart Blacksell led the latest in the series of webinars sponsored by the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for South East Asia. Entitled "Release of new WHO Laboratory Biosafety Manual, 4th Edition: Implications for Labs in Low and Middle Income Countries and the Development of WHO COVID-19 Biosafety and Biosecurity Guidance", the webinar was well attended with a high volume of participation.
For those unable to attend the materials from the webinar will be available for the next 7 days at the following link - https://we.tl/t-inNaCUkzP4
Work Package 7 - COVID-19 - Launch Webinar - 24th November 2020
Team leader John Jones and project experts from VERTIC, PHE and RIVM launched a new workstream for the Project which is specifically focussed on COVID-19. Introduced as an additional work package by the European Commission, following the outbreak of the global pandemic, National Focal Points and key stakeholders were introduced to the approach, themes and online learning platforms planned to be used as part of the delivery mechanism. Conducted using Zoom, the webinar provided the opportunity for discussion and the sharing of thoughts across the region.
Regional Secretariat Webinars - October 2020
Our project team continued to support UNICRI and the EU CBRN Regional Secretariat for South East Asia with its COVID-19 related series of webinars throughout the month of October. On the 20th October, Dr's VU, Ngoc Long, NGUYEN Cong Khanh, NGUYEN Thanh Thuy and NGUYEN Dang Tho shared Viet Nam's experience of COVD-10 control and response. A week later Dr. Maria Suleiman relayed the Malaysian experience.
Project Co-ordination Meeting - 8th September 2020
Our next coordination meeting with key individuals from DG DEVCO, EU Regional Secretariat, Project 81 Key Experts and UNICRI is set for Tuesday the 8th September.
Webinar on 'Biological Inventory Database' - Friday 4th September
Dr Joris Sprokolt & Dr Saskia Rutjes from RIVM will be the guest speakers on this webinar organised by the Biorisk Association of Singapore & EU CBRN CoE.
Webinar - 18th August 2020
The seventh webinar in the series run by the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for South East Asia will be presented by the project team who will provide "An overview of International Activities in Response to COVID-19 - Part 2".
Tuesday 18 August @ 5pm (Manila time) / 11am (Brussels time)
Register for the webinar:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
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Webinar - 4th August 2020
The sixth webinar in a series run by the CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for South East Asia will be presented by CBRN CoE Project 81 - BIOSEC, who will provide "An Overview of International Activities in Response to COVID-19".
Details are as follows:
Tuesday 4 August @ 5pm (Manila time) / 11am (Brussels time)
To join Zoom Meeting:
951 9423 1713
Please feel free to share this invitation with others.