NTI experts discuss catastrophic risks imperiling humanity at Effective Altruism Global Conference

Joan Rohlfing, president and COO of NTI, and NTI | bio vice president Dr. Jaime Yassif discussed catastrophic risks imperiling humanity at the Effective Altruism (EA) Global conference in Washington, D.C.

On September 24, Rohlfing joined Council on Strategic Risks CEO Christine Parthemore, Longview Philanthropy Nuclear Policy Programme Officer Carl Robichaud, and Dr. Emma Belcher, the president of Ploughshares Fund, for a panel discussion called, “What Can We Do About Nuclear Risk?” The panelists stressed the need to move away from a model of nuclear deterrence towards one of existential security. Rohlfing emphasized that we live in a world of global nuclear disorder in which nuclear weapons are being used as a shield, not a deterrent. Transforming this system would require a reimagination of our approaches to problem-solving across different disciplines to bring new and diverse perspectives to the table.

Yassif gave a talk about “Safeguarding Modern Bioscience and Biotechnology to Prevent Catastrophic Biological Events” on September 25. While advances in biotechnology and the life sciences offer tremendous potential benefits, they also pose risks that engineered pathogens could be deliberately or accidentally misused with potentially devastating consequences. Rapid biotechnology advances far outpace the ability of governments to provide effective oversight, and no international entity has dedicated its primary mission to strengthening bioscience governance and reducing emerging biological risks.

To address this gap, Yassif said, NTI is working to launch the International Biosecurity and Biosafety Initiative for Science (IBBIS). The mission of this new independent organization will be to strengthen international biosecurity norms and develop innovative tools to uphold them.

Dr. Jassi Pannu, a Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, moderated a fireside chat with Yassif and Brown University’s Dr. Beth Cameron, former NTI | bio vice president and previous senior director for global health security and biodefense on the National Security Council. The panelists discussed the emerging interface of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, how preparing for GCBRs helps with pandemic preparedness more broadly, and the value of bridging traditional biosecurity and public health concerns with EA community values.

Throughout the conference, NTI engaged with young professionals interested in careers in reducing catastrophic risks, reinforcing NTI’s focus on fostering the next generation of leaders.

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