Balancing the promise of biotechnology with preventing the biological weapons threat

Whether naturally occurring or manmade, biological threats pose a grave risk to our increasingly interconnected world.  The emergence of new diseases and the natural evolution of pathogens are constantly changing the nature of biological risks.  Over the past 25 years, the diffusion of technical expertise coupled with the biotechnology revolution has also dramatically increased the threat posed by bioterrorism. Further, many previously tedious and labor-intensive processes have been simplified or automated, decreasing the resource and financial requirements for illicit biological weapons activities.  All of these factors taken together create an urgent need to strengthen infectious disease surveillance as well as improve bio-security and safety globally.

The dual-use nature of biological research equipment and processes raises proliferation concerns—in order to develop vaccines and treatments, life scientists must use many of the same methods and materials that could be used to produce biological weapons.  As the biotechnology industry continues to grow and globalize, increasingly powerful technologies are becoming more widely available and offered at lower costs, and may increase the risks of accidents involving high-risk pathogens. Efforts to strengthen biosecurity and reduce the threat posed by biological weapons thus require ingenuity and effective leadership. 

Innovating an End to Pandemics

Recognizing that governments have most of the resources and authority in the large-scale work of threat reduction, NTI emphasizes leverage. We use our voice to raise awareness, advocate solutions, and foster new thinking about these problems. Because the response of a health system in one country could have a direct and immediate impact on a neighboring country or continent, and recognizing the importance of cross-border communication and training, NTI has helped create both regional and global organizations focused on disease surveillance—a critical step for rapid detection and response. NTI is also a founding member of the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Consortium, an international coalition of non-government stakeholders working together with governments focused on accelerating progress in global health security. 

Related Projects

Beth Cameron

Global Health Security Index

The GHS Index will highlight individual country needs, boost compliance with international standards, and create better understanding of global capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to biological threats.

Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance

A non-governmental initiative to facilitate global cooperation and capacity among public health experts and communities, to enhance health security

Middle East Consortium on Infectious Disease Surveillance

The Middle East Consortium on Infectious Disease Surveillance, centered in one of the world’s most turbulent regions, builds unprecedented cooperation among public health authorities in preparing for and responding to biosecurity and disease threats.

Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance Network

The Mekong Basin Disease Surveillance Network strengthens national and sub-regional capabilities in infectious disease surveillance and outbreak response in Cambodia, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Laos.

NTI-WHO Global Emergency Outbreak Response Fund

NTI helped the World Health Organization establish and build a fund to allow teams of epidemiologists to deploy immediately to investigate and respond to disease outbreaks around the globe.
Bio Suit Under Hood

Tuberculosis Threat in North Korea

To address the surging number of tuberculosis cases in North Korea, the Stanford University-led Bay Area TB Consortium worked with NTI and other groups to establish a local lab capable of detecting drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis.