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Stef Stienstra

Stef Stienstra

Dutch Armed Forces/Royal Dutch Navy, Netherlands

Title: Managing bio-security information

Biography

Stef Stienstra is a Strategic and creative consultant in biomedical science, with a parallel career as a Commander of the reserve of the Royal Dutch Navy. For the Dutch Armed Forces he has responsibility for the counter measures in CBNRe threats and (medical) consequence management both in a military and a civilian (terrorism) setting. He is strategic functional specialist for “Health & Environment” of the 1-Civil-Military-Interaction Command (1-CMI) of the Dutch Armed Forces and for 2015 also in the NATO Response Force (NRF), which is in 2015 the responsibility of the 1-German-Netherlands-Corps (1-GNC). He was the director of the 2014 World Congress of CBRNe Science & Consequence Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. In his civil career he works internationally as consultant or as scientific supervisory board member for several medical and biotech companies, merely involved in biodefense. He is also visiting professor for Punjab University in Pakistan and Rhein-Waal University in Germany. He has finished his studies in Medicine and in Biochemistry at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands and has extensive practical experience in cell biology, immunohaematology, biodefense and transfusion medicine. His natural business acumen and negotiation competence helps to initiate new successful businesses, often created out of unexpected combinations of technologies. His good understanding of abstract science combined with excellent skills in the communication of scientific matters to non-specialists, helps him with strategic consulting at top level management.

Abstract

Introduction : Sharing security threat information is a challenge for governments and their agencies. Especially in biotechnology and microbiology the agencies do not know how to classify information on potential bio-threats.

Methodology: An example is the delay of the publication of the transmissibility of H5N1 avian influenza virus in Science by the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 2012 as various organizations wanted to investigate whether the details could be misused. The study showed that only a small number of mutations would make it possible to change the H5N1 virus so it could spread through the air. Dangerous, but this information is also useful to develop new therapies and/or vaccines.

Discussion: The knowledge of these natural mutation mechanisms could be misused to weaponize micro-organisms. It enables the engineering of the lethality, like it is done with some anthrax strains. Should these laboratory techniques be classified? Academics want to publish for the progress of science to find useful applications. The Rotterdam scientists were really annoyed when their research was blocked for publication and feared that other groups would be firstin publishing a part of their obtained experimental results.

Conclusion: Biosafety is already common practice in micro-biology, but biosecurity is often still questionable. A ‘Code of Conduct’, like the Dutch Academy of Science has developed, would help; especially for the so-called insider risk. Educational programs for the identification and assessment of risks and threats to security have to be developed to give scientists bio-threat awareness and for government officials to rationalize the real threat, without damaging the progress of science.