Global trends in travel, trade, terrorism, and technology are increasing the risk of a deliberate or accidental high-consequence biological event. There is no doubt that advances in technology hold the promise of a future that is more resilient to disease, food insecurity, and environmental instability. However, cheaper DNA synthesis and access to gene editing tools are making it possible for a broader array of actors to manipulate biological agents and systems. These scientific advances are outpacing the ability of national governments to provide effective oversight, resulting an uneven patchwork of security and safety practices across facilities, countries and regions and creating a need for the technical community to better govern itself. Most countries do not have in place adequate capability, and biosecurity and biosafety are under-represented as policy and financial priorities among countries and international institutions working to address global health security and counter WMD risks. International technical leaders, public and private sector investors, and policymakers must take concrete and innovative actions to measure, improve, and track biosecurity capability; markedly enhance global biosurveillance; catalyze international norms for reducing biological risks associated with advances in technology; and incentivize biosecurity and biosafety investments to prevent high consequence biological events.
Dr. Beth Cameron is NTI’s Vice President for Global Biological Policy and Programs. She previously served as the Senior Director for Global Health Security and Biodefense on the White House National Security Council staff. She also served on the White House Ebola Task Force and as Office Director for Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) and Senior Advisor for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense programs. She was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Servive.