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NTI | bio Expert Calls on U.S. House Leaders to Prioritize Biosecurity

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NTI | bio Senior Fellow Jaime Yassif, Ph.D., called on government leaders to take urgent steps to prevent future catastrophic biological events during a Dec. 8, 2021 hearing on “Biosecurity for the Future: Strengthening Deterrence and Detection” by the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation. Yassif testified alongside Andy Weber, senior fellow at the Council on Strategic Risks; Amesh Adalja, Ph.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; and Kevin Esvelt, Ph.D., director at the Sculpting Evolution Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Yassif focused on steps that national leaders and the international community should take and outlined NTI’s biosecurity priorities:

  • Prevent the deliberate abuse or accidental misuse of bioscience and biotechnology by strengthening international biosecurity norms and developing innovative, practical tools to reduce risks throughout the research and development life.
  • Develop a new Joint Assessment Mechanism to strengthen UN-system capabilities to investigate high-consequence biological events of unknown origin. The ability to rapidly discern the source of emerging pandemics is critical to mitigating their effects in real time and protecting against future risks—and it could help deter development and use of biological weapons.
  • Advocate for funding biosecurity and pandemic preparedness capacity in countries around the world. Sustainably financed systems for early detection and robust response can stop outbreaks at the source before they evolve into global pandemics and can help deter would-be perpetrators of bioweapons attacks.

Yassif cited several NTI projects designed to further these priorities, including the Global Health Security Index and the International Biosecurity and Biosafety Initiative for Science (IBBIS), an  independent organization to be established in late 2022 that will work collaboratively to strengthen global biosecurity norms and develop innovative tools to uphold them.

Read Yassif’s full testimony here.

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