NTI Co-Chairman and CEO Ernest J. Moniz and Munich Security Conference (MSC) Chairman Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger virtually convened 19 global leaders and experts on February 17, 2022 for a high-level tabletop exercise focused on reducing high-consequence biological threats.
This is the fourth year that NTI has partnered with the MSC to convene senior leaders from across government, industry, and civil society to explore gaps in the global biosecurity and pandemic preparedness architecture and identify concrete actions to reduce the risks of catastrophic biological events.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has underscored global vulnerabilities to catastrophic biological events, and it has highlighted long-standing weaknesses in the international architecture for preventing and responding to pandemics. This is an urgent concern because future biological events could match or exceed COVID-19’s devastating impact in lost lives, economic damage and political disruption.
To address these issues NTI and MSC jointly convened a facilitated, scenario-based exercise featuring the following themes:
- Effective approaches for investigating biological events of unknown origin
- Coordination of an effective international response to high-consequence biological events with cascading effects on supply chains and public services
- Impacts of cybersecurity risks on efforts to prevent and respond to biological events
- Challenges and opportunities for biothreat assessment and intelligence
The exercise scenario involved a localized bioweapons attack against cattle in the fictional country of Andoriban with a genetically engineered strain of the Akhmeta virus. While the attack was intended to cause targeted economic damage, the virus quickly spills over into humans and continues to spread, rapidly evolving into a global pandemic. The global response is complicated by challenges attributing the source of the pandemic, lack of coordination across sectors at the national and international levels, and by cyber-intrusions affecting public health systems. Over 20 months, the scenario evolves into a globally catastrophic pandemic, leading to 2.2 billion cases and more than 120 million deaths.
NTI will publish a report in the coming months, summarizing key findings from the exercise discussions and putting forward recommendations to address the challenges highlighted by the exercise. Additional information about previous MSC-NTI exercises can be found in reports from 2021, 2020 and 2019.