Collett: What are some examples of
those gaps that countries could be looking for?
Cameron: I’ll give you a few
examples under the headings of “Prevent,” “Detect,” and “Respond”. To “Prevent,” we’re focused at NTI on all
countries knowing where their especially dangerous pathogens are located and
taking steps to consolidate and prevent theft or misuse of them. As I mentioned
previously, we know that almost no country in the world is fully prepared to
accomplish this based on the external evaluations that have been conducted.
Even well-developed countries fall short in this area. It’s also critical to improve accountability and
oversight for research and technology development that can increase risk,
including research that enhances virulence or transmissibility for pathogens
that have pandemic potential. We’re
working to do our part to reduce those risks through NTI’s Global Biosecurity
Dialogue, Biosecurity Innovation and Risk Reduction Initiative, and Next
Generation for Biosecurity Competition.
we know that it’s really important for countries to have trained “disease
detectives.” These are people that know how to find, stop, and prevent diseases
from spreading. There are programs to train disease detectives all over the
world and some of those disease detectives then go on to stop outbreaks in
their own countries and regions. Also, the
world is not yet prepared to detect emerging, unusual, and modified agents in
real-time – I equate this to pulling a needle out of a haystack. It’s so vital
to improve our international biosurveillance architecture so that we don’t lose
precious time during a pandemic.
“Respond,” we know that all countries should have in place the ability to have
an emergency operations center – sort of a national hub for reporting when a
disease is detected and then be able to run an effective outbreak response. The
center should be able to be stood up quickly and it should be able to handle a
report very quickly from anywhere in its territory.
At this time, many countries don’t have an effective emergency operations
center. In addition, there is not enough global attention or investment in
developing the platforms necessary to more quickly develop, distribute, and
dispense drugs and vaccines for emerging threats. New international efforts
like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) are
helping, but additional focus and creative financing mechanisms remain crucial.
Collett: It seems like there’s still
a lot of work to do. How is NTI | bio reducing the risk of a global pandemic in
2019 and beyond?
Cameron: NTI’s biosecurity program,
NTI | bio is working on several things that are important to reducing global
catastrophic biological risks and preventing the next pandemic. I’m really
excited about NTI’s Global
Biosecurity Dialogue. We know that most countries aren’t prepared to handle
a deliberate or accidental biological event. That’s why we’re working with countries
around the world to spur new actions to fill those biosecurity gaps worldwide. We’re
working to also elevate this issue and build political will and financing to
improve policy and capability gaps, while also addressing emerging risks. Additionally, I’m delighted to announce a new
effort we recently launched called the Biosecurity
Innovation and Risk Reduction Initiative. That Initiative is aimed at convening
technical experts, people largely outside of governments, to determine new
actions that can be taken to reduce the risks posed by advances in technology
that make it easier to create and modify pathogens. Scientific advancements
that allow the creation and modification of viruses like flu are outpacing the
ability of national governments to provide effective oversight. This means the
experts that create, use, and invest in new technologies should take additional
and specific steps now to reduce those risks. The group has already agreed to
pursue several novel approaches, which we hope will be piloted and eventually
adopted in the coming years.
year, NTI, in cooperation with our partners at the Economist Intelligence Unit
and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, will also publish the first
Global Health Security (GHS)
Index. The GHS Index will be a catalog of areas for global attention and improvement
to prevent the next outbreak from becoming a pandemic.
addition, we remain focused on improving disease surveillance for emerging,
unusual, and modified agents – those more likely to be associated with a global
catastrophe but which are unexpected or deliberately created or released. Knowing
what threat you’re dealing with is the first step to saving lives.
Collett: Those all sound so
exciting! How can readers get involved with NTI | bio or just helping with this
effort in general?
Cameron: There are several ways if
you’re interested in becoming involved in pandemic preparedness of biosecurity.
NTI readers come from all over the world, so, wherever you live, you can
advocate for resources for pandemic preparedness. It’s really important that
every country takes action to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks
before they become epidemics. The US government, for example, has lots of
programs that work nationally and internationally to stop outbreaks from
becoming epidemics and that kind of continued work is really important.
can also check out our Global Health Security Index when it’s published next
year – we’re really excited to put forward the 1st global health
security index with our partners and see how people can use the data to make
the world safer.
if you’re interested in our Global Biosecurity Dialogue, there is a Next
Generation Global Health Security Network, and there’s a growing number of
people in that network that are becoming interested in biosecurity so you could
join that network and link up with biosecurity experts around the world.
you could enter our Next Generation for Biosecurity Competition which we host
annually to encourage young professional to think creatively about biosecurity
and give them an opportunity to present their ideas to health security leaders
from around the world. We will actually be announcing the 2018 competition
winners in early November.