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Biosafety Expert
Record information and status
Record ID
113122
Status
Published
Date of creation
2018-02-01 01:40 UTC (tim.strabala@epa.govt.nz)
Date of publication
2018-02-01 14:20 UTC (melissa.willey@cbd.int)

General information
Nominating Government
  • New Zealand
Profile of the Expert
Dr Cobb's has a proven record of managing technical experts and communicating complex science to decision-makers. He currently manages seven technical specialists (predominantly entomologists and molecular biologists) to assess and manage the risks of introducing new organisms (including GMOs) into New Zealand. Prior to this he lead seven veterinarians and marine scientists who provided animal and aquatic biosecurity risk assessment advice in New Zealand's Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). He is recognised nationally and internationally for his expertise and has a record of producing robust evidence-based advice. He has been vice-chair of the European Food Safety Authority's working group charged with reviewing and driving improvements to the quality of their risk assessments, developed risk analysis training material for NGOs in the Pacific Islands, and prepared and delivered risk analysis training courses in New Zealand and overseas.
Personal Information
Coordinates
Dr Stephen Cobb
Level 10
215 Lambton Quay
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
Wellington
New Zealand, 6140
Phone:+64 4 474 5522
Fax:+64 4 914 0433
Email:Stephen.cobb@epa.govt.nz
Gender
  • Male
Nationalities
  • British
Date of birth
1970
Place of birth
United Kingdom
Current employment
Employer / Organization
Environmental Protection Authority
Acronym
EPA
Type of organization
  • Government agency (National/federal)
Department / Division / Unit
New Organisms
Start date
2016
Main responsibilities
Ensure technical consistency across all EPA risk assessments relating to both hazardous substances and new organisms. Harmonizing risk assessment methodology and ensuring adoption of international best practice.
Develop technical capacity of the team to support the New Zealand government's national and international commitments.
Improvement of risk assessment processes and leading the work programmes, focussing on quality control and customer service.
Develop and maintaining customer-focused relationships, engaging collaboratively with internal customers, key stakeholders and clients. Strong focus on establishing technical co-operation activities with other New Zealand ministries and international counterparts.
Contributing to the leadership of the organisation as an effective and proactive member of the Operational Leadership Team, managing the day to day operation of the EPA as a whole.
Developing and implementing effective strategic and operational plans for the EPA.
Retaining oversight of the overall new organism application process.
Providing leadership and management to staff by ensuring that robust processes for communication, performance management, and learning and development are effectively implemented.
Employment history
Countries or regions where you have worked
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Previous employment
Employer / Organization
Ministry of Primary Industries
Acronym
MPI
Start date
2006
Ending date
2016
Type of organization
  • Government agency (National/federal)
Main areas of responsibility
Providing leadership and management to staff.
Liaison with local and international experts.
Ensuring the quality and timeliness of risk assessment advice meets the needs of risk managers, and is appropriately peer reviewed internally and (where appropriate) externally.
Conducting risk assessments in relation to the import of animals and animal products into New Zealand.
Partnering with internal and external stakeholders to facilitate innovative approaches to meet emerging environmental challenges by identifying, advising, and reporting on emerging animal and aquatic health biosecurity risks and opportunities.
Providing comment on OIE standards.
Keeping abreast of new and emerging disease syndromes which may represent a risk to New Zealand and providing summaries of any developments.
Acting as a technical mentor to colleagues throughout the organisation.
Previous employment
Employer / Organization
Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Start date
1999
Ending date
2006
Type of organization
  • Government agency
Main areas of responsibility
Management and leadership responsibilities for scientific, administrative and veterinary staff.
Liaison with Public and Environmental Health consultants and officials. Representing the VLA at regular public health liaison meetings and on health protection advisory committees.
Conducting investigations of endemic and emerging disease episodes through evaluation of casework submissions, authorising tests, conducting postmortem examinations, on-farm investigations, analysing and interpreting results, and reporting conclusions.
Veterinary support to Defra in notifiable disease control strategies, including significant involvement in the UK FMD outbreak in 2001. This included field investigations and establishment/co-ordination of disease control centres.
Preparing and editing scientific papers, reports and newsletters for internal and external publication. Contributing to promotional meetings for the veterinary profession and livestock industry. Lecturing undergraduate students at Nottingham University. Producing the laboratory's monthly surveillance report and local newsletter.
Regular participation in laboratory audit procedures and taking appropriate action to ensure compliance with UKAS Group accreditation to ISO 17025.
Formal education
First Degree or other academic distinction and subject
Example: B.Sc. in Microbiology
BVM and S
Name of academic institution
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh
Start date
1989
Ending date
1995
Formal education
Second Degree or other academic distinction and the subject
Example: M.Sc. in Microbiology
BSc (VetSci) in Biochemistry
Name of academic institution
University of Edinburgh
Start date
1989
Ending date
1995
Areas of Expertise
Main areas of expertise
  • Food and feed safety
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk management
Publications
List most important publications related to the expert main field of expertise.
Cobb SP, Pharo H, Stone M, Groendaal H and Zagmutt FJ (2015) Quantitative risk assessment of the likelihood of introducing porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus into New Zealand through the importation of pig meat.Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 34 (3), 961-975.
Cobb SP and MacDiarmid SM (2014) Animal Health Risk Analysis. In: Encylopedia of Meat Sciences, 2nd Edition. Elsevier. Volume 1, 27-32.
Cobb SP and Smith H (2015) The spread of non OIE-listed diseases through international trade of chicken meat: an assessment of the risks to New Zealand. Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 34 (3), 795-812.
List of other publications
List of other publications provided seperately on accompanying C.V.
List of other publications files
Awards and Professional Memberships
Professional memberships
Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon
Veterinary Council of New Zealand
Technical committees, expert panels or advisory bodies served
Member of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) expert review working group (ERWG), from when it was first convened in 2009 until it was disestablished in 2016. For four of these years I was the elected vice-chair of this group. The ERWG was charged with reviewing and driving improvements to the quality of EFSA's scientific outputs.
Member of the Technical Advisory Group convened by the New Zealand government to review the reponse to the current Mycoplasma bovis outbreak and provide advise on the possibility of eradiaction. Role was focussed on evaluation of risk assessment activities to date.
Language proficiency
"A" = Excellent, "B" = Good, "C" = Fair
Mother Tongue
  • English
Speaking / Level (A B C)
  • English
/A
Reading / Level (A B C)
  • English
/A
Writing / Level (A B C)
  • English
/A
References
References
Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter
General Manager
Hazardous Substances and New Organisms
Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)
Grant Thornton House, 215 Lambton Quay
Wellington
New Zealand, 6140
Phone:+64 4 916 2426
Fax:+64 4 914 0433
Email:Fiona.Thomson-Carter@epa.govt.nz
Url:Environmental Protection Agency website
Dr Howard Pharo
Manager, Animals and Animal Products
Animals and Animal Products
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
Pastoral House, 25 The Terrace
Wellington
New Zealand, 6110
Phone:+64 4 894 0100
Email:Howard.pharo@mpi.govt.nz
Url:https://www.mpi.govt.nz/
Dr Steve Hathaway
Director
Biosecurity Science, Food Science, and Risk Assessment
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
Pastoral House, 25 The Terrace
Wellington
New Zealand, 6110
Phone:+64 4 894 0100
Email:steve.hathaway@mpi.govt.nz
Url:https://www.mpi.govt.nz/
Additional Information
Additional Information
Dr Cobb qualified as a veterinarian in 1995. After six years in private practice, he spent six years as a veterinary pathologist. Since 2006 he has been employed by the New Zealand government in the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

He is internationally recognised as an expert in risk analysis and epidemiology; in 2017 he was invited to present an OIE workshop in Thailand on facilitating safe international trade, attended by 57 delegates from 23 countries, and also to facilitate a Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) workshop and chair a round table symposium on understanding perceptions and evidence of the benefits and risks associated with the consumption of raw milk. He has been invited to give presentations at international conferences, including the World Veterinary Congress, the International Sheep Veterinary Congress, and the USDA Swine Enteric Coronavirus International Meeting.

He has authored or co-authored over 30 risk analyses to inform New Zealand government animal health policy development. A number of these assessments have been used to inform the development or refinement of international standards and has defended his work during legal challenge in New Zealand's High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court.

Dr Cobb is comfortable writing, presenting, and facilitating debate around technical issues in internal and external settings. He is experienced considering the non-technical elements that influence decision-making; such as commitments under international agreements, the role of international standards, and challenges presented by conflicting viewpoints of domestic stakeholders and trading partners. He is a skilled editor of scientific and sensitive material, able to see the bigger picture on behalf of an organisation. He brings a balanced evidence-based view to issues and is valued for his ability to communicate findings clearly to colleagues regardless of their roles or background.