Advances in life sciences and technologies can bring enormous benefits to our health, our societies and our environment. They pave the way for the creation of innovative tools and treatments that can address existing challenges in these fields. However, to realize the full benefits of these advances, it is essential that any potential risks deriving from their use are also recognized and mitigated.

On September 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) published the Global guidance framework for the responsible use of the life sciences, a document which aims to raise awareness of the value of biorisk management and provide a set of values and tools to support Member States and other relevant stakeholders in preventing and mitigating biorisks. The document is the first global, technical and normative framework for dual-use research – i.e. research that is intended to provide a clear benefit, but which could be misapplied to do harm.

By Delphine Thizy, Coordinator of the francophone working group at the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and Stakeholder Engagement Senior Adviser at Target Malaria

Twenty years ago, The Global Fund was created to fight what were then the world's deadliest infectious diseases: HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria. Since then, the partnership has invested more than US$55 billion, saving over 50 million lives and cutting the combined death rate from the three diseases by more than half in the countries where it invests. Ahead of its Seventh Replenishment cycle, The Global Fund is calling on the world to mobilize US$18 billion to save 20 million lives. Reaching this target will mean reducing malaria cases by 66% by 2026.


Photograph: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria 

Even before the world was shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, progress against malaria had stalled. Although the worst-case scenario projected by the World Health Organization (WHO) was avoided, according to the 2021 World malaria report, there were still an estimated 241 million malaria cases and 627 000 malaria deaths worldwide in 2020, with over 96% of these deaths occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we mobilize to ensure The Global Fund’s replenishment target is met and that we can address this challenge.

By Carolina Torres Trueba, International Legal and Administrative Manager, Island Conservation

Islands are a focal point in the global biodiversity crisis. Despite making up only 5 percent of the planet, they have seen 61 percent of all recorded extinctions since the 1500s and are home to 40 percent of all vertebrates that are currently considered to be critically endangered. The human introduction of invasive animals to islands — particularly mammals like rats, cats, and goats —has had devastating consequences, including the extinction of local species and extensive habitat damage.


Juvenile Antipodean Albatross in the Antipodes Islands. Photograph: Island Conservation

A new paper released by Island Conservation and colleagues across the globe, titled "The Global Contribution of Invasive Vertebrate Eradication as a Key Island Restoration Tool", shows that eliminating invasive species from islands is one of the most effective tools to halt and reverse biodiversity loss in these areas. The paper is the first compilation of all documented pest eradications on islands around the world. The Database of Island Invasive Species Eradications (DIISE), a publicly available dataset, was used to compile almost one hundred years' worth of attempts to eradicate invasive vertebrates from nearly one thousand islands. The investigation discovered an 88 percent success rate, revealing the impact and potential of invasive species eradication as a tool for biodiversity conservation.

Why is risk assessment important for gene drive? As gene drive technologies move closer to potential field evaluations, it is important that they be responsibly assessed to make sure they can be used safely and efficiently. The purpose of the risk assessment process is to identify potential pathways to harm that could lead to adverse health or environment impacts, and thus implement suitable measures that can eliminate or mitigate risks.

In collaboration with the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research, the ISAAA SEAsia Center published a new policy brief entitled Risk Assessment for Gene Drive Organisms. The policy brief was developed following the Key Considerations for Risk Assessment of Gene Drive Technologies webinar, the second in the 2022 Gene Drive Webinar Series led by the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research and the ISAAA SEAsia Center. It provides an overview of the appropriateness of current guidelines, best practices, and gaps in the processes through which gene drive technologies are being developed and assessed.

The upcoming GeneConvene and TReND course “Gene Editing: Theory and Practice” is a unique opportunity to learn more about how gene editing technologies work and their potential applications in Africa.

The event will take place from October 31 to November 12, 2022, at the Midlands State University in Gweru, Zimbabwe. Bringing together researchers from Africa and beyond, the course will be an opportunity for trainees to meet with experts who work towards the development of gene editing technologies for a variety of different applications.

The course is split into two phases. The first part is a theoretical introduction into genome editing and its applications in Africa. This will be followed by a practical course on molecular biology, genome editing and their applications in various model systems (zebrafish, fruit flies, and mosquitoes). The course aims to provide participants with the knowledge to successfully perform genetic manipulations related to their research. The faculty for this course will include Dr Tony Nolan (Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine), Dr Hind Abushama (University of Karthoum) and Dr David O’Brochta (Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH)), among many others.

African scientists, from Master students to Heads of Department, are invited to send in their applications by August 31 (midnight GMT). There is no fee for the course and attendees will receive a grant to cover their transport and accommodation costs in full.

Visit the event website for more information.