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Genome Editing: Biosafety Agency Trains Staff On Regulation

ABUJA,  NIGERIA - The National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), in conjunction with the Program for Biosafety Systems (PBS), has started a series of trainings to properly equip Biosafety Regulators, on how best to regulate the emerging technology referred to as genome editing.

Genome editing (or Gene editing) is a kind of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in the genome of a living organism.

Unlike early genetic engineering techniques that insert genetic material into a host genome at random, genome editing targets the insertions to site specific locations.

According to NBMA’s Head of Press Unit, Gloria Ogbaki, the Director General (DG) of the biosafety agency, Dr. Rufus Ebegba, at the opening of the training workshop, emphasized that it was geared towards ensuring capacity strengthening of staff to embrace the new responsibility.

It would be recalled that the Federal Government (FG) recently expanded the mandate of the agency to include new and emerging technologies of which genome editing is one.

Dr. Ebegba said that developments in science and technology are happening at a rapid speed, hence, the need for staff of the agency to be proactive and be on top of their operations.

“As the biosafety regulators of Nigeria, NBMA owes the country proper regulation of these technologies.

“NBMA will regulate genome editing, as such, the workshop will help guide the Agency on areas to regulate,” Ebegba said.

The DG further urged participants to use the opportunity to acquire the needed knowledge that will aid the agency in proper regulation of the technology.

In a remark, John Komen, Africa Coordinator, PBS, applauded the agency on the strides it has made in the last five years, particularly in the expansion of the NBMA Act to include the regulation of emerging biotechnologies.

Komen expressed delight at the successful commercialization of the first engineered food crop (PBR-Cowpea) in the Sub-Saharan Africa by Nigeria, saying it was an indication of a strong biosafety system in the country.

In the same vein, President of the Nigeria Biotechnology and Biosafety Consortium (NBBC), Prof. Celestine Aguoru, praised the NBMA for the giant strides it had achieved within the few years of its existence.

According to Aguoru, the accomplishments had made the agency a household name in Nigeria towards ensuring safe deployment of products of modern biotechnology.

He encouraged the biosafety agency not to be deterred by the different challenges confronting it, noting that “resistance is always faced at introduction of a new technology.”

The professor assured participants that as the president of the NBBC, he will work towards bringing all stakeholders together to ensure that the biosafety system maintains steady growth.

The 2-day workshop was aimed at providing a platform for experts in the biosafety sector from across the globe, to educate officers of the NBMA and other key stakeholders on issues and aspects of Gene Editing, specifically – to enlighten the participants on the science of genome editing; to identify the possible risks, if any, that may be associated with genome editing; to discuss the possible regulatory guidance for genome editing in Nigeria; to review the use of genome editing in other countries and the adopted regulatory processes; and to identify communication needs and issues in connection with regulatory guidance and decision making about genome editing techniques.

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