School of Natural Sciences and Engineering
PROGRAMME ON BIOSECURITY
Biosecurity research programme at National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) aims to bring about the right practices evolved through scientific approaches for biosecurity. It also focuses on the stewardship in implementing the security options keeping in view of India’s changing socio cultural setup as well as the lacunae in the system in order to support regulatory and policy decisions.
The main objectives of the research programme include biosecurity and society, biosecurity and economy, legal and regulatory aspects of biosecurity and the science of practicing biosecurity.
The goals of the research programme are to identify concerns in the biosecurity sectors of crop, livestock and the environment using risk assessment techniques, natural signals and biomarkers and impact assessment models with core value components such as social, economic, cultural and environmental values. The activities of the programme include risk management and development of qualitative, semi-quantitative (categorization and prioritization systems) and quantitative risk assessment models based on surveillance data, microbiological, epidemiological, commercial, climatic, transportation and sociological data. The development of predictive models with integrated approaches based on vulnerabilities, the cross sectoral issues and cost benefit studies of biosecurity measures and research questions on bioterrorism including agroterrorism are also prioritized. The research programme also works to provide a platform for scientists to address the ‘dual use’ dilemma in basic scientific research and the issue of scientific freedom within biosecure norms. It also aims to bring about professionalism in implementing biosecurity norms in the sectors of farming, poultry, aquaculture, dairy and other sectors.
Biosecurity research programme at NIAS aims to reach out to various biosecurity sectors through its outreach programmes and at as a forum for discussion on biosecurity issues and a platform for effective communication between experts and public on biosecurity. Outreach programmes also aim to bring out awareness through bringing out brochures and educational material that will help all concerns to develop skills in managing threats. The biosecurity group is planning to collaborate with other institutions/ universities in the country in order to pursue its academic goals.
1. A discussion meet on “biosecurity”
Dr. P K Shetty (Professor and Dean of School of Natural Sciences and Engineering, NIAS) was one of the coordinators of the discussion meet on “SETTING UP A NATIONAL AGENDA TOWARDS BIOSECURITY” held during 23rd and 24th November 2006 at NIAS. The National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai and Advanced Research Institute, Bangalore jointly organized this meeting. The Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, sponsored the programme.
This discussion meeting focused on various issues related to biosecurity, biosafety, biohazards and bioterrorism and its relevance to India. Biosecurity specialists, policy makers and other individuals from various organizations participated in this discussion including Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi; International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad; Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, New Delhi; National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi; High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), Bhopal; Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore; National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune; National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad; National Centre for Integrated Pest Management (NCIPM), New Delhi; Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai; and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), New Delhi.
The following are some of the key recommendations or outcome of this meeting in terms of regulatory system, technical requirements and capacity building that needs urgent attention
Regulatory/ Policy related Issues
- India needs a biosecurity policy to safeguard the income and livelihood of farm sector, enhance national capacity to monitor, warn, educate and building infrastructure for containment of any eventual pandemic.
- There is a need for a convergence in the effort of all departments and Ministries to develop a coherent biosecurity strategy. Regulatory measures, education, and social mobilization are the three pillars necessary to formulate a biosecurity strategy.
- There is an urgent need to set up a National Agricultural Biosecurity System that should comprise three main components, A National Agricultural Biosecurity Council chaired by the Union Minister for Agriculture having 4 wings dealing with crops, farm animals, living aquatic resources and agriculturally important micro-organisms, and dealing with the analysis, aversion and management of risks, as well as the operation of an early warning system. National Agricultural Biosecurity Network will serve as the coordinating and facilitating scientific partnership between various institutions engaged in bio-monitoring and other biosecurity programmes.
- India needs to update the classification of microorganisms based on the risk level, as the present one is outdated. Besides, a network of high security level 3 and 4 labs needs to be set up in different parts of the country. A minimum of one biosafety level 4 lab at a national level connected to four biosafety level 3 lab each in north, south, west and east regions of the country need to be established.
- Biosecurity in aquaculture is another major area of concern which can be achieved through five main operational programmes: Pre-border quarantine- certification, surveillance; Border quarantine; Post-border surveillance- regular programmes; Incursion response- Control measures for exotic pathogens; and Disease management activities- For already established pathogens.
- A national surveillance system for exotic diseases and a Rapid Response Team to contain the problem is essential for India.
- Molecular epidemiology of nutrition deficiency/genetic susceptibility to degenerative diseases should be undertaken for early detection. Food and nutritional security issues in India should take a multidisciplinary approach involving biotechnology, pharmacogenomics, molecular medicine and nanotechnology.
- Classification of bio weapons based on taxonomy, effects and mode of delivery is essential.
- The use of radiation technique is most effective mode for protecting life from biohazards. Ionizing radiations can be used even for pre packed commodities without any residues. This would also help in quarantine to meet the requirements of potential importers/ exporters. Besides, microchips can be used for quick and efficient detection of a range of viruses.
- There is a need for close collaborations in emergency scenarios as done in case of NIV (ICMR) and High Risk Security Lab (ICAR) for Avian flu.
- Lack of scientific information and proper database specially of potentially dangerous viruses increases the biosecurity threats. While there are five sophisticated and modernised plant quarantine stations in India, we still need to meet international standards in several areas.
- Biosecurity Literacy is essential. Each and every panchayat needs to have a trained man and women as biosecurity managers.
- A focussed threat/risk analysis, followed by capacity building in diagnosis and preparedness, developing emergency action plan and establishing a single integrated National Bio-security Centre is the need of the hour. Some of the models on biosecurity set up in countries such as New Zealand, USA, Australia and Belize could be followed in India.
- Establish a knowledge centre, which will act primarily as a think tank for futuristic agricultural developments. This centre will primarily use space, geographic information and high science agricultural systems modelling tools to- Suggest a series of land use options in different Agri Export Zone’s (AEZ); Frame policy / inter-institutional make-ups for implanting resource conservation; Provide guidelines for embedding IT and knowledge tools in agricultural research and development systems; and Guide best response strategies to contain global change.
- It is essential to strengthen Plant Quarantine (PQ) facilities through training of PQ officers in Pest Risk
2. Discussion Meet on ‘Swine Flu in Bangalore- Lessons Learnt and Preparedness’
A discussion meet on ‘Swine Flu in Bangalore- Lessons Learnt and Preparedness’ was organized by National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore on 26th August, 2009.
The panelists included Dr S. Cheluvaraj, Joint Director (Communicable Disease Prevention) and nodal officer, Karnataka swine flu cell, Dr. Shashidhar Buggi, Director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases; Dr. V. Ravi, Head of the Department of Neuro-Virology, NIMHANS, Dr.P.,K.Shetty, Professor and Dean, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Lt.Gen. D.Raghunath, Principal Executive, Sir Dorabji Tata Centre for Research in Tropical Diseases, IISc, Dr. S. Yathiraj, Dean, Veterinary College, Hebbal, Bangalore and Dr. Vasudeva Murthy, nodal officer for Disease Control Program, Directorate of Health and Family Welfare Services.
Outcome of the Event
The discussion meet was organized by the Biosecurity Group of NIAS was an effort to boost the public confidence with enough knowledge inputs from experts about H1N1 outbreak and issues such as the evolution of the virus, its spread and impact.
Views of the panelists
Dr. Shashidhar Buggi, Director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Chest Diseases; said that all the persons need not do the tests and that H1N1 is self- limiting unless the person develops secondary infections or is immuno-compromised. He also said that Karnataka was the first state to start the screening process at the Bangalore International Airport. Dr.Cheluvaraj, Joint Director (Communicable Disease Prevention) and nodal officer, Karnataka swine flu cell, said that Karnataka simultaneously started the coordination and containment activities along with the international efforts. But, he also claimed that Bangalore is facing increase in the spread of the infection due to the excessive travel by the IT sector and the weather conditions. He stated that Karnataka has a sound and regular weekly reporting surveillance system and that it is the first to involve the private hospitals. Dr. Yathiraj, Dean, Veterinary College, Hebbal, mentioned that H1N1 virus is restricted to the human population and ‘swine flu’ is a misnomer. Lt.Gen.Raghunath summarized the views of all the other experts. Dr.P.K.Shetty, Professor and Dean, NIAS. proposed to develop a holistic health care mechanism for different cities and districts in order to cater to the needs of people. He also said that measures such as increasing surveillance, rapid detection capacity and prompt care of patients to minimize deaths are highly important.
- Dr. P.K. Shetty
Professor & Dean
School of Natural Sciences & Engineering
Tele: (O) +91-80-2218 5120/5000
Fax: +91-80-2218 5028
- Dr. Kshama Lakshman (Postdoctoral Associate)
Tele: (O) +91-80-2218 5156/5000