1. What standards exist for BSL laboratories?
No standard formulations have been devised or received from the Government of Pakistan. The National Institute of Health, Islamabad, for example, follows the criteria and standard guidelines devised by WHO, the United States CDC’s Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL), and ABSA-Canada (Canadian Association for Biological Safety).
Additionally, in May 2005, The Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency issued National Biosafety Guidelines. The document provides guidelines on laboratory research, field trials, and release of genetically modified organisms.
2. Have there been any BSL accidents in your country?
a. If yes, how and why did accidents at high-containment facilities occur?
b. How, to whom and when are they reported?
c. Who has authority to investigate accidents?
d. What disciplinary or legal actions can be taken?
According to the Pakistan Biosafety Rules, 2005, the Technical Advisory Committee must be notified following any accident that could lead to the release of genetically modified organisms.
3. Have any steps been taken to minimize BSL laboratories accidents? If so, by whom (i.e., regulation, voluntary measures, individual laboratory practices)?
In his December 6, 2010 address to the BWC Meeting of the States Parties, Ambassador Zamir Akram stated that, “The subject of Biosafety has been incorporated in the curricula of relevant university disciplines.”
The Pakistan Biosafety Rules 2005 require an organization involved in bio-technology or genetic manipulation to designate a Biosafety Officer.
Pakistan currently has three Biosafety organizations including the Pakistan Biological Safety Association (PBSA), which is affiliated with the National Core Group in Life Sciences (NCGLS) of the Higher Education Commission and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) and was started in 2008.
Additionally, a number of training activities and seminars on biosafety have taken place in Pakistan, and Pakistanis have participated in similar events abroad. For example, in 2009, Aga Khan University in Karachi held two seminars on Laboratory Biosafety and a National Training Seminar on Biosafety and Biosecurity Initiatives took place in 2007 in Islamabad. Similarly, Pakistanis attended the Asia Conference on Laboratory Biosafety and Biosecurity (Bangkok, Thailand, 2007); the Biosafety and Biosecurity International Conference: Healthier and More Secure Communities in the Middle East and North Africa Region (Casablanca, Morocco, 2009); the Biosafety and Biosecurity Risk Assessment and Risk Mitigation Training Event for Pakistani Bio-scientists (Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2010); and the ICLS-COMSTECH-PAS International Conference on Conduct of Responsible Science: Safety, Security and Ethics (Islamabad, Pakistan, 2010).
4. Have any steps been taken to increase security at BSL facilities? If so, by whom (i.e., regulation, voluntary measures, individual laboratory practices)?
In 2010, the Government of Pakistan’s Planning Commission issued a report on Biosafety and Biosecurity in Biological Laboratories that describes good microbiological practices and suggests that one lab in each province be brought into full compliance with BSL-2 practices and then used as a model.
In his December 6, 2010 address to the BWC Meeting of the States Parties, Ambassador Zamir Akram stated that, “the Inter-Agency Task Force on BWC issues has finalized ‘Guidelines for development of Code of Conduct for the Life Scientists’ and circulated them to all our national stakeholders.” Additionally, the documents were translated into the national language, Urdu.