CSR Webinar: Preventing the Next Pandemic—Leveraging Today’s Tools to Address the Biological Threats of the Future

By Lillian Parr

On Monday, November 15, the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) hosted a webinar to discuss innovative technologies for addressing biological risks and how the U.S. government can most effectively invest in them. These technologies span a broad range of technological readiness and include disease forecasting tools, diagnostics, medical countermeasures, and much more. This conversation was led by Christine Parthemore, CEO of CSR, and Andy Weber, Senior Fellow at CSR.

CSR was excited to welcome two guests, Dr. Vik Bajaj and Dr. Luciana Borio, who contributed incredible expertise on the biotech industry and the most promising cutting-edge technologies for pandemic prevention.

Dr. Vik Bajaj is a Managing Director of Foresite Capital, a healthcare and life sciences investment firm, and co-founder and CEO of Foresite Labs, a biotech company incubator. Dr. Bajaj previously served as the Chief Scientific Officer at GRAIL, a startup focused on developing technology for early detection of cancer. He is also the co-founder and former chief scientific officer of Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) and served as chair of its Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Bajaj advised the Department of Defense through the Defense Science Board’s Task Force on Biology. In addition, Dr. Bajaj has had multiple roles in academia: he is currently an Adjunct Associate Professor of Radiology at Stanford University Medical School and was a former academic PI at University of California, Berkeley and of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Throughout his career, Dr. Bajaj and his collaborators have developed numerous biomedical technologies relevant to pandemic prevention and disease detection, aspects of which have been commercialized through startups.

Dr. Luciana Borio is a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations specializing in biodefense, emerging infectious diseases and medical product development. She is also currently a Venture Partner at Arch Venture Partner, a firm that provides early-stage venture capital for technology firms in life sciences, physical sciences, and information technology. Previously, Dr. Borio served as the vice president at In-Q-Tel, where she worked on identifying and delivering innovative technology solutions for the United States Intelligence Community. From 2017-2019, she was director for medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council. Prior to that, Dr. Borio served as the acting chief scientist of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and as the assistant commissioner for Counterterrorism Policy of the FDA. Dr. Borio is an adjunct assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University and practices medicine part-time.

In the webinar, Dr. Bajaj and Dr. Borio discuss the shortcomings in the initial U.S. response to COVID-19, and how to better leverage technology to prepare for future pandemic threats. In addition to discussing the need to develop specific technologies and infrastructure, Dr. Borio and Dr. Bajaj emphasize the importance of effective implementation. Actually creating a usable system for disease early warning, for example, requires a clearly established vision and structure within government. There is tremendous potential for progress if the U.S. government successfully uses its authorities and funding to harness the incredible innovation in the private sector, especially in between health crises.

Check out their conversation at this link or below, and keep watching CSR’s blog and YouTube channel for more webinars featuring expert analysis on addressing systemic security threats. 

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