Battling Catastrophic Biological Threats: Cost-Effective Solutions for National Security

By Nils Justen, Nathan Calvin, and Andrew Weber

Edited by Yong-Bee Lim, John Moulton, Christine Parthemore, and Francesco Femia

Battling Catastrophic Biological Threats: Cost-effective Solutions for National Security” examines the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. and the importance of investing in measures to prevent and prepare for future pandemics. To date, the pandemic has cost millions of lives and trillions of dollars, highlighting the necessity of a detailed examination of mitigation strategies against rapidly evolving biological threats.

Biological threats to national security pose a unique combination of risk and opportunity, with the potential for large-scale damage and the bargain of mitigating them. Despite their significance, Federal funding has not yet sufficiently addressed these threats, as biodefense spending remains less than 1% of its annual defense budget.

Past investments in technology development have shown promising results, and increased spending on pathogen-agnostic, flexible platform technologies could make the U.S more resilient against future pandemics. Other potential interventions include developing next-generation personal protective equipment (PPE), implementing pathogen inactivation technologies, and improving global biosurveillance.

This report begins by outlining biological risks and their evolution, followed by discussions on approaches to addressing these risks and how the landscape is changing. It concludes by demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of pursuing more aggressive investment to mitigate these risks to save lives.

The 21st century presents an increasingly challenging and complex risk landscape, with thousands of biological laboratories worldwide and rapid democratization of biology. Countering biological threats is imperative for the US, as every goal of national and strategic importance is jeopardized by these risks. The article suggests investing additional resources in developing pathogen-agnostic defensive measures and other steps to reduce pandemic risks, which could save countless lives in the future.

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