Biotechnology in Kazakhstan. Global challenges during a pandemic

The global spread of the new coronavirus has dramatically changed our lives. Modern science, including biotechnology, has faced a global challenge to provide preventive and diagnostic methods against the pandemic.

On September 23, 2020, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev spoke at the General Debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. The Head of State noted that the 75th anniversary of the United Nations is being held in both dramatic and critical time. COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause deep suffering among the people around the world and has seriously affected the global economy.

As a part of the activities of the Pugwash Committee of Kazakhstan (PCK) and following the approved decision of the Presidium of KazNANS, the PCK work plan for 2020, an online seminar "Biotechnology in Kazakhstan: global challenges during a pandemic" was held on October 21. The event was organized by the Pugwash Committee of Kazakhstan with the participation of the PCK Youth Division. Organization and technical support for the online seminar were provided by S.A. Aliyev (Appendix 1 - Seminar program).

Moderator of the online seminar Miniyazov A.Zh. opened the event by introducing the main participants.

Professor Mansurov Z.A. made a welcoming speech and noted the relevance of the role of biotechnology in a pandemic, which soon will be able to ensure biological safety against constantly emerging threats, including coronavirus infection.

Speaker of the online seminar, Ph.D., Tarlykov P.V. presented a report on the development of vaccines and testing kits for the diagnosis of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Kazakhstan and paid attention to refuting the recently appeared rumors about coronavirus (Appendix 2 - Presentation).

Invited leading domestic scientists, including members of the Pugwash Committee of Kazakhstan, gave a speech at the online seminar:

  • Professor Berezin V.E., who expressed gratitude to the organizers of the seminar and the speaker Tarlykov P.V. for the excellent preparation of a report in a form accessible to a wide audience on the role of biotechnology not only as a scientific field but also as a profession. He noted the importance of conducting research aimed at constant monitoring of the spread of viruses in their natural reservoir, in particular, taking into account the regional characteristics of Kazakhstan.
  • Ph.D., Baykenov Zh.E. expressed gratitude for organizing the online seminar and noted the achievement of the main goal of the outreach event. In this regard, he expressed the wish to continue work in this direction, in particular, with students of universities and young scientists.
  • Associate Professor Tasibekov Kh.S. stressed the importance of training personnel to solve scientific problems to combat the spread of coronavirus and the development of medicines, as well as the need to improve infrastructure for the development of biotechnology in Kazakhstan.
  • Associate Professor Masalimov Zh.K. in turn, noted the rapid pace of development of biotechnology, as one of the key technologies in the world and an important direction in addressing global security issues. The information provided, including the questions and answers voiced at the seminar, is an important step that makes it possible to assess the readiness of biotechnological science and educational technologies for such a global challenge.
  • Saveliev S.R. highly appreciated the presentation and noted the importance of creating a modern organizational and technical infrastructure to ensure the sustainable development of biotechnology, as well as the need to ensure the development of scientific research exclusively for peaceful purposes.

In general, all invited participants noted the importance and relevance of the seminar and highly appreciated the event. The workshop participants wished the speaker and colleagues success in achieving the goal of creating a domestic vaccine against COVID-19 and creating a modern technological platform for developing vaccines against future infections to ensure the biosafety of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

In turn, the organizers of the event thanked the audience for their active participation. The topic of the seminar received a high response among the participants. The speaker P. Tarlykov has answered more than 15 questions from all residents of our country, including the younger generation.

The online seminar brought together more than 120 people, including senior students, masters, doctoral students, and the teaching staff of universities, in particular KazNU named after al-Farabi, KAFU, EKSTU named after D. Serikbayev, ENU named after Gumilyov, MKTU named after H.A. Yasawi. This made it possible to cover a wide audience of participants from the cities of Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Ust-Kamenogorsk, and Kyzyl-Orda.

The Pugwash Committee of Kazakhstan expresses its deep gratitude to the leaders of the universities for their support and assistance in holding the seminar.