By Buzz McClain
Mahdi al-Jewari arrived at George Mason University a few weeks ago to learn as much as he can about the globally vital subject of biorisk management. His intention is to return home to Iraq and apply what he learned at George Mason to help keep his home country, and perhaps even the planet, safer from biological dangers.
As the head of the biology department of the Iraqi National Monitoring Authority in the Iraq Ministry of Science and Technology, the Bioscience Fellow at Mason is on a mission to develop a program in Iraq that will oversee the country’s risks associated with infectious pathogens. He’s being hosted by Mason’s Biodefense Program in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs and is sponsored by CRDF Global, an Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit that promotes international scientific collaboration.
On Thursday, Feb. 19, al-Jewari will be the featured speaker in the first of a series of biodefense policy seminars on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. The seminar is called “Global Biorisk Management: The View from Iraq” and is open to the public. The program begins at 6 p.m. at Merten Hall’s Room 1204 with light refreshments at 5:30 p.m.
“CRDF usually places scientists in laboratories, but they realized that they needed an organization that could help Mr. al-Jewari combine good science with smart policy,” says Mason biodefense professor Gregory Koblentz.
Mason was chosen as host because of the program’s combination of education and research on biosecurity issues.
“Mr. al-Jewari will be working with biodefense faculty to conduct research on best practices in biosecurity and will have the opportunity to receive training in state-of-the-art biosafety practices,” Koblentz says.
Iraq has had plans for a biorisk management system since 2008, but despite international aid, the program has not gotten off the ground.
“This is the first time in history for us we are dealing with biorisk management,” al-Jewari says. “All the states in the world have to control biological agents. This is our main task, to control this material. This is important for us now.”
March’s biodefense policy seminar will feature David Christian Hassell, deputy assistant secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense. In April, Gary Ackerman, director of Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, will be the seminar guest.
For details about all the seminars, see this link.