Technologies to Address Global Catastrophic Biological Risks

An areal view of various medical equipment including a patient chart, medication, a stethoscope, a pair of eyeglasses, and an iphone.The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has released a new report that builds on previous research off of global catastrophic biological risks, or GCBRs. The report, titled Technologies to Address Global Catastrophic Biological Risks, centers on modern technology that can be used to respond to GCBRs. The report points out that:

“While systems to respond are in place in many areas of the world, traditional approaches can be too slow or limited in scope to prevent biological events from becoming severe, even in the best of circumstances […] This type of response remains critically important for today’s emergencies, but it can and should be augmented by novel methods and technologies to improve the speed, accuracy, and reach of the response.”

The report classifies such technology in five ways depending on the stage of the emergency. Categories include: disease detection, surveillance, and situational awareness; infectious disease diagnoses; distributed medical countermeasure manufacturing; medical countermeasure distribution, dispensing, and administration; and medical care and surge capacity. Some of the technologies discussed include 3D pharmaceutical printing, drone delivery to remote locations, and innovations in vaccinations. The authors are careful to provide context for the use of each technology and include a discussion on the current limitations of each technology.

The aim of this report is to continue to bring new ideas to a field in need of innovation. The authors draw attention to this by stating that,

“[T]he adoption and use of novel technologies for the purpose of epidemic control and public health often lag well behind the innovation curve because they do not have a lucrative market driving their development. This leaves unrealized opportunities for improved practice.”

Ultimately, advances in technology should be for the benefit of all, especially in the face of serious global biological catastrophes.

The HSDL offers many resources related to global biological risks in our featured topic Pandemics and Epidemics. Please note that an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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