Improving Response to Disease Outbreaks: Ambassador Üzümcü Makes the Case for New International Biotech Organization

By John Moulton, Dr. Dan Regan, and Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü

On October 6, 2022, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, former Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), presented the case for a new international institution: The International Biotech Organization. He unveiled the concept to the Biological Sub-Working Group of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, a G-7 led, 31-country member international initiative aimed at preventing the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and related materials. Due to the ongoing pandemic, this was the first in-person meeting of this Partnership in three years.

Motivated by the alarming lack of early response to the initial warning signs of COVID-19 and its staggering toll on human life in the early part of the pandemic, Ambassador Üzümcü, began developing a concept for this new international institution in April 2020. Influenced by his experience leading the OPCW for eight years, Ambassador Üzümcü proceeded to frame this new institution within an agile, independent, and impartial framework that would help address emerging and evolving biological threats in the 21st century. 

The IBTO’s core mission would be to rapidly deploy its technical experts to simultaneously identify the pathogen behind an emerging outbreak while providing public health measures and medical advice to the local authorities on the ground. The vision is for the IBTO to be a public-private, multi-stakeholder enterprise that engages the biotech industry, the scientific community, and the philanthropic sector to guide and facilitate its efforts. Ambassador Üzümcü also recognized that the IBTO’s mandate must encompass the introduction of pathogens from all sources: deliberate, accidental, and natural.

The IBTO concept followed presentations on the United Nations Secretary-General Mechanism and a Joint Assessment Mechanism proposed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) during the session on strengthening mechanisms and capabilities for responding to disease as a weapon. Trevor Smith, Co-Chair of the Biological Security Working Group, concluded the session by noting, “we invite NTI and CSR to continue to work with the Global Partnership on these important issues.” CSR intends to do that by continuing to develop the IBTO concept and leveraging its capabilities as part of our Deterrence by Denial strategy to make biological weapons obsolete.

Below are the presentation slides from Ambassador Üzümcü’s October 6th introduction of the  IBTO concept, and a copy of his speech, providing detail on its form and function.



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