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This report highlights 15 technologies or categories of technologies that, with further scientific attention and investment, as well as attention to accompanying legal, regulatory, ethical, policy, and operational issues, could help make the world better prepared and equipped to prevent future infectious disease outbreaks from becoming catastrophic events.
Infectious disease emergencies can arise with little notice and have serious detrimental and lasting effects on health and society. As a subset of infectious disease emergencies, global catastrophic biological risk (GCBR) is a special category of risk involving biological agents—whether naturally emerging or reemerging, deliberately created and released, or laboratory-engineered and escaped—that could lead to sudden, extraordinary, widespread disaster beyond the collective capability of national and international organizations and the private sector to control. While rare, the risks of severe pandemics and GCB events are increasing because of factors like climate change, population growth and urbanization, and rapid affordable global travel. In addition, advances in biotechnology that enable easier and more targeted manipulation of biology increase the chances that microbes may be misused or will become the accidental cause of a pandemic. Yet, while biotechnology does pose some societal risk, investment in the technologies described in this report, and other technologies, is also an important component in helping to safeguard the world from a devastating biological event. When applied thoughtfully, technology can improve our ability to recognize and address emerging biological problems.