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Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Nuclear Threat Initiative to expand focus on global biosecurity risks with new grant

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The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) recently received a $6 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project that will help strengthen its efforts to mitigate global biological threats that have increased as the world has become more interconnected.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Cameron, NTI’s vice president for global biological policy and programs, “The grant from the Open Philanthropy Project will allow NTI to launch several new projects, including identifying concrete new actions to reduce biological risks posed by advances in technology, promoting biosecurity innovation, increasing national commitments to enhance biosecurity, identifying novel approaches to detect and respond to unusual biological events, and further advancing the Global Health Security Agenda.”

Founded in 2001, NTI’s goal is to preserve life and the environment against biological, chemical, radiological, nuclear and cyber attacks. NTI also is a founding member of an international group of non-government entities that work together with governments to advance a global health security agenda.

NTI also recently announced that $250,000 in support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will advance its efforts to develop a Global Health Security (GHS) Index for analyzing a country’s biological program and policies.

“The GHS Index will serve as a tool that can shape public policy and allow governments, development banks, and donors to more systematically prioritize financing to fill vital gaps in country capability to combat biological threats,” Cameron told Homeland Preparedness News.

The GHS Index will draw on publicly available information and be measured by an independent non-governmental entity. Internationally accepted technical assessments from the World Health Organization’s International Health Regulations Joint External Evaluation, and the World Organization for Animal Health’s Performance of Veterinary Services Pathway will be included.

NTI is working with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and The Economist Intelligence Unit to develop the framework for the index.

“The GHS Index is intended to identify, clearly and transparently, gaps in global capability to stop and mitigate high consequence biological events and to motivate accountability for filling them,” Cameron added.

In addition to biosecurity, Cameron said there also will be an emphasis on criteria that connects health security, socio-economic and political risk factors, and the broader health care system.

“Through a recurring GHS Index, we seek to stimulate political will and create accountability for new and continuing health security investments and to highlight the need for leaders to place a continued priority on global health security,” Cameron said.

Cameron sees 2018 as a vital year for the type of global leadership necessary to advance biological security and health security. “We can’t take our foot off the gas,” Cameron says. “NTI plans to promote biosecurity innovation and investigate novel approaches to curb global catastrophic biological risks.”

For example, she said the organization is exploring several new dialogues. “We’re trying to encourage new country commitments to improve biosecurity,” Cameron said. “We’re also focusing on concrete actions to mitigate biological risks posed by emerging technologies.”

She also wants the United States to maintain its leadership in this area. “Biological threats can strike at any time, and U.S. support for stopping outbreaks at the source – before they spread – is a vital and irreplaceable element of our biodefense.”

For example, NTI has helped to fund and establish collaboration regarding health matters in the Middle East with the Middle East Consortium for Infectious Disease. Another program, Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance (CORDS), has helped public health experts on a regional, national and international level share best practices regarding responses to biological weapon threats.