UTD logo

The University of Texas at Dallas, P.O. Box 830688, Richardson, Texas 75083-0688

News Release

News contact: Steve McGregor, UTD, (972) 883-2293, [email protected]

UTD Professor Named to Experts Group
Seeking to Halt Spread of Biotech Weapons

International Committee of Red Cross Taps Dr. Marie Isabelle Chevrier

photo - Dr. Marie Isabelle ChevrierRICHARDSON, Texas (March. 4, 2004) - Dr. Marie Isabelle Chevrier, a member of the faculty at The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), has been appointed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to a select group of experts whose mission is to help halt the development and spread of biotechnology weapons.

Chevrier, who has considerable expertise on the subjects of arms control and biological and chemical warfare, will join 14 other experts from the United States and four other countries to develop a set of "principles of practice" for scientists and scientific institutions involved in the life sciences to prevent the deliberate spread of disease in the future.

"These 'principles of practice' would be intended to provide a reference for future discussions on codes of conduct for science and industry," the ICRC said in a letter inviting Chevrier to join the arms panel. The panel's recommendations " could provide a benchmark for research, research proposals, funding, publication, contract of employment for scientists, safety procedures, professionals codes, peer-review processes and educational programs," the ICRC letter suggested.

The establishment of the experts group is part of an ICRC initiative called "Biotechnology, Weapons and Humanity" - an effort to prevent advances in biotechnology from being put to hostile uses. Recommendations by the group are expected to be reviewed by other arms-control experts, then submitted to meetings in 2005 of signatories to the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC), which outlaws the development, production or acquisition of such weapons.

"I am honored to be asked to join such a distinguished group of scientists involved in such important work," Chevrier said. "The ICRC is to be commended for its ambitious initiative to ensure that potentially dangerous biological knowledge and agents be subject to effective controls."

In addition to the U.S., other countries represented on the ICRC panel include the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia and Canada. Among the panel's members are Dr. Patricia Lewis, ambassador and director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, and Dr. Ottorino Cosivi, project leader for the World Health Organization's Department of Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response. Both are based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The experts will take part in a two-week "electronic forum" in early May to draft a first set of recommendations to prevent biotechnology abuse. In August, a second, expanded "eForum" is expected to be conducted, whose goal will be to produce a final document that would be presented to BWC parties next year.

The ICRC's fight against biological weapons began in February 1918, when the organization launched an impassioned appeal, describing warfare by poison as "a barbaric invention which science is bringing to perfection" and protesting "with all the force at (its) command against such warfare, which can only be called criminal."

Responding in part to the ICRC's appeal, a number of nations adopted the 1925 Geneva Protocol, reaffirming the general ban on the use of poison gas and extending it to cover bacteriological weapons. This norm is now part of customary international law, binding on all parties to all armed conflicts.

The 1972 BWC significantly reinforced this prohibition by outlawing the development, production, stockpiling, acquisition, retention and transfer of biological and toxin weapons. As regards new advances in biotechnology and possible terrorist threats, the convention covers all biological agents and toxins that "have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes" and includes the means to deliver such agents.

Chevrier is an associate professor of political economy in UTD's School of Social Sciences. She is the former associate director of the Harvard Sussex Program on Chemical and Biological Armaments and Arms Limitation at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

Her research on arms control negotiations has appeared in numerous scholarly journals and other publications. She is a member of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Working Group at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, D.C., and has been a member of the faculty of two North Atlantic Treaty Organization Advanced Study Institutes on biological weapons control. In addition, she is an active member of a study group on the implementation of chemical and biological weapons conventions affiliated with the Pugwash organization, which was the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize.

Chevrier holds a Ph.D. degree in public policy from Harvard University.

About UTD

The University of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology corporations known as the Telecom Corridor®, enrolls more than 13,700 students. The school's freshman class traditionally stands at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD, please visit the university's web site at www.utdallas.edu .

Other Press Releases & Announcements
This page last updated
August 03, 2013