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Completed Projects

A Framework to Analyze the Pandemic Potential of Pathogens

Focus areas:

Global Health Security

Emerging Infectious Diseases and Epidemics

Deliberate Biological Threats

Pandemic pathogens are often drawn from lists of known pathogens based on historical outbreaks, their pathogenicity, and expert opinion. In this project, the Center aimed to create a new lens by which to view this problem by developing a framework to analyze elements of potential pandemic pathogens and provide a means to augment preparedness activities for human infectious disease emergencies.

The project team conducted a literature review of prior work done on this issue and then moved to distilling the essential features of historically high impact infectious disease outbreaks that nonetheless did not cross a global catastrophic threshold (e.g., Black Death, the 1918 influenza pandemic, the HIV pandemic, the tuberculosis pandemic). In addition, non-human major infectious disease events were studied.

The team informed and enhanced its research through interviews with international infectious disease experts, paleontologists, physicists, virologists, astrobiologists, mycologists, and parasitologists. Once drafted, the initial new framework was assessed and critiqued by a group comprised of select interviewees and other experts. After the group’s feedback was considered and incorporated, the project team published a report describing the framework and will brief leaders in the scientific, policy, public health preparedness, and national security communities.

Project team lead: Amesh Adalja, MD

Project team: Eric Toner, MD; Matthew Watson

Project supported by: Open Philanthropy Project

Resources: Final report

Date completed: May 2018



Our Mission

To protect people’s health from epidemics and disasters and ensure that communities are resilient to major challenges.