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Biological Science and Biotechnology in Russia: Controlling Diseases and Enhancing Security
In 2003, a committee of the National Research Council (NRC),1 building on a decade of experience promoting U.S.-Russian engagement in biological research and in close consultation with Russian colleagues, initiated a study that would set forth a realistic vision for the development of the biosciences and biotechnology in Russia over the next ten years. Further, the committee considered practical steps that could be taken by Russia, independently or collaboratively with international partners, to move toward the achievement of that vision.
The specific charge to the NRC committee responsible for this assessment was as follows:
This project will present a 5 to 10 year vision of an environment in Russia for biological research and production activities that encourages efforts to prevent bioterrorism and the proliferation of potentially dangerous biological agents and expertise while addressing public health, agricultural, industrial, environmental, and scientific challenges. The project will address both: (1) the positive contributions to peaceful science, economic, and social development that can be made by biological institutions; and (2) the possibilities of misdirection of materials and expertise to terrorist groups or to states seeking biological weapons capabilities. Also, the project will suggest near-term steps that can be taken by the Russian government, by Russian institutions, and by the international community to contribute to the development of such an environment. U.S.-Russian cooperative programs will receive special attention, since during the past several years they have played a key role in reducing the likelihood of bioleakage (the spread of biological materials and expertise) from Russian institutions.
Thus, the report should be of interest to officials and specialists in both Russia and the United States and also to the broader scientific community around the world.
A VISION FOR STRENGTHENING PUBLIC HEALTH AND SECURITY
Of primary importance is the evolution of a stronger, more flexible public health system in Russia that is increasingly integrated into global networks as they respond to endemic and emerging diseases. These enhanced capabilities could contribute to a significant reduction of vaccine-preventable and drug-curable infections in both humans and animals in Russia, which would include: (1) more effective utilization of disease prevention measures; (2) increased effectiveness at national and local levels in controlling arthropod vectors and animals that serve as reservoirs for zoonotic diseases; and (3) a more effective global approach to combating infections through stronger and more active cooperation with international partners.