The Biosecurity Office is a national information centre for the government and for organisations that work with high-risk biological material.

What is biosecurity?

Biosecurity, including Laboratory Biosecurity, refers to the legislative and institutional framework, the principles, technologies and practices that are implemented to secure pathogens, toxins and sensitive technologies and related equipment* from unauthorized access, loss, theft, misuse, diversion or intentional release.

* Sensitive technologies and related equipment: materials, equipment and technology covered by relevant multilateral treaties and arrangements, or included on national control lists, which could be used for the design, development, production or use of biological weapons and their means of delivery.

This definition, which is used by the Biosecurity Office, has been composed on the basis of various definitions for biosafety, biosecurity or biorisk from various sources, such as international organizations (FAO, WHO), international treaties (BTWC), CEN workshop agreement (CWA 15793) and national organizations well advanced in biosecurity (SIPRI, CBB, Bradford University).

To comprehensively explain the difference between biosafety and biosecurity, Bureau Biosecurity illustrates this with the following equation. With biosafety, people are protected against dangerous pathogens, while with biosecurity, the pathogens are protected against malicious people.

What is Dual-Use

The literal meaning of dual-use is that a particular activity or object can be used in at least two ways. In research in the life sciences, the term dual-use means that biological agents, including knowledge and underlying techniques, can be used in two ways. Research on pathogenic organisms is extremely important for development in the medical, biological and agricultural fields. However, biological agents, including knowledge and techniques, can also be used to develop biological weapons that can endanger public health and the environment.

What is Biosecurity Office?

In 2013, the Biosecurity Office was installed by the Dutch government as a knowledge and information centre for biosecurity. The agency is located at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in Bilthoven, the Netherlands. The office consists of a multidisciplinary team of eight RIVM employees with various expertise, including knowledge of biosecurity, biosafety, biorisk, infectious disease control, environmental microbiology, zoonoses, genetically modified organisms, public health and biological calamities.

What are the activities of the Biosecurity Office?

The Biosecurity Office functions as the expert information and advisory body for both the government and all institutions in the Netherlands that work with high-risk pathogens, knowledge, information and technologies. The Biosecurity Office currently fulfills a clear bridge function between the Dutch government and all stakeholders, including universities, hospitals, academic hospitals, diagnostic laboratories, biotechnology companies, biotech organizations and (professional) associations.

The Biosecurity Office increases biosecurity awareness in the Netherlands and supports organizations in the voluntary implementation of biosecurity measures. The Biosecurity Office also supports the government in exploring additional biosecurity laws and regulations.

Activities of the Biosecurity Office:

  • Acts as a knowledge and information point and answers biosecurity questions
  • Gathers biosecurity knowledge and develops tools and web applications
  • Gives (inter)national presentations, lectures and workshops on biosecurity
  • Providing knowledge support to the government