Tools for laboratory biorisk officers

In its ongoing mission to reduce biological risks, Global Chemical and Biological Security (GCBS) has been actively developing assessment methodologies and tools that will aid laboratories seeking to implement biorisk mitigation measures in a manner advocated by the World Health Organization. Currently, GCBS has two biorisk models and software tools for conducting laboratory biosafety and biosecurity risk assessment.

Designed for use by laboratory biorisk officers, these models provide a visualization of relative risks and help to identify appropriate mitigation measures. They have incorporated GCBS and international biorisk officer experience in drafting sets of criteria, prioritizing the criteria, and outlining their scoring functions. The main objective of these models is to help strengthen laboratory risk governance by providing standardized, systematic, and repeatable assessment methods. Biorisk subject matter expertise was critical in their development, as there currently is no primary imperial data for laboratory biorisks.

Risk is defined by likelihood and consequences. For biosafety, likelihood refers to the probability of infection and exposure via an infectious route of a biological agent. Consequences are defined as the effects of disease to the at-risk population. The populations of concern include persons in and around the laboratory, the human population outside the laboratory, and the animal community outside the laboratory. For biosecurity, likelihood is defined as the probability of theft of a biological agent and the severity of the consequence of an attack with that agent.

The assessment process is broken into components:

  • Evaluate the biological agents that exist at the facility.
  • Evaluate the facility processes and procedures.
  • Evaluate the in-place biorisk mitigation measures.
  • (For biosecurity) Evaluate the potential adversaries of the facility.

Within each component are several criteria and sub-criteria that are scored independently. These scores are weighted and then rolled up to provide the overall consequence and likelihood score. This method is based on a Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) scheme, quantifying the various aspects of biorisk using qualitative definitions.

The final results show the relative risk of agents at a given facility and provide program management a mechanism to determine unacceptable risks. This scheme can aid program management in allocating recourses to mitigate facility biorisks or in assessing the effetiveness of current biorisk program management.