Jaime Yassif, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, Global Biological Policy and Programs
The risk of a catastrophic biological event is growing due to rapid advances in technology, increased global capability to create and engineer pathogens that could cause a pandemic, and the potential for interest in biological weapons by powerful actors, including states and terrorist groups.
Make the case for governments, funders, researchers, and investors to prioritize GCBRs; develop innovative solutions for preventing, detecting, and mitigating global catastrophic biological events; and bolster efforts to prevent the development and use of biological weapons.
Greater awareness of GCBRs among security and public health leaders; commitments and actions by policymakers and practitioners; and a stronger international norms against the development and use of biological weapons.
Global Biological Catastrophic Risks (GCBRs) are biological risks of unprecedented scale that have the potential to cause such significant damage to human civilization that they undermine its long-term potential. Uncontrolled, the impact of a global biological catastrophic event would cause tremendous loss of life; societal instability; prolonged damage to governments and economies, damage to international relationships; and would threaten global security.
GCBRs are increasing for several reasons. First, rapid advances in technology are making it easier to manipulate biological organisms and to create and engineer pathogens and other biological agents. These developments are coupled with potential state and non-state interest in biological weapons. In parallel, the legitimate global bioscience research enterprise continues to conduct experiments involving the creation and enhancement of pathogens with pandemic potential. Finally, laboratory accidents and errors demonstrate the need to proactively identify risks and guard against accidental release.
The risks are further exacerbated by global travel and trade, lack of pandemic preparedness capability, and dependence on a suite of interconnected essential services—power, water, food, health care, telecommunications and the global financial system—that are vulnerable to devastating disruptions.
Unfortunately, the drivers of GCBRs and their potential consequences are not well understood or prioritized by policymakers. In recent years, national governments and the international community have proven unprepared to combat naturally emerging regional epidemics. They are even less prepared for potential future global pandemics, including deliberate or accidental high-consequence biological events that could be unprecedented in scale. GCBRs pose a daunting challenge, and meaningful reduction of these risks will require concerted efforts by governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector.
NTI’s actions to reduce GCBRs consist of three primary lines of effort:
1. Building a stronger case for decision-makers to prioritize action to counter GCBRs — among governments, international organizations, and global leaders in security, public health, and disaster response.
2. Establishing new forums focused on p
reventing the development and use of biological weapons by powerful actors and strengthening the Biological Weapons Convention.
3. Developing innovative solutions for early detection and rapid response to GCBRs.
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Munich Security Conference
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NTI experts joined government officials and experts from around the world in Geneva at a side event on preventing future high-consequence biological events.
Dr. Jaime Yassif will join the NTI | bio team as a Senior Fellow to implement new projects funded by this grant.
NTI bio publishes interactive infographic exploring major biological vulnerabilities.
NTI | bio and partners brought together congressional staff to highlight the challenges of detecting and responding to an outbreak caused by a novel pathogen.
NTI’s recently expanded Global Biological Policy and Programs (NTI | bio) is launching a high-level advisory group this week.
NTI and partners hosted two workshops for researchers and hospital staff on the risks associated with using cesium-137 irradiators for research and blood irradiation.
Beth Cameron responds to a new framework published by Johns Hopkins that aims to advance scientific dialogue about potential global catastrophic biological risks.