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Our History

The Center was founded in 1998 by D.A. Henderson as the first nongovernment organization to study the vulnerability of the US civilian population to biological weapons and how to prevent, prepare, and respond to their consequences.

For over 20 years, we’ve aimed to ensure a future in which severe pandemics can no longer threaten our world. We conduct a series of projects, collaborations, and initiatives to push forward progress on global health security, emerging infectious diseases and epidemics, medical and public health preparedness and response, deliberate biological threats, and opportunities and risks in the life sciences.

Our History: 20 years

  • photo of D.A. Henderson and Tara O'Toole

    First nongovernment organization to study the vulnerability of US civilian population to biological weapons and how to prevent, prepare, and respond.

  • Organized 2 national symposia on medical and public health response to bioterrorism.

  • Published seminal series of papers in JAMA on medical management of biological agents.

  • Dark Winter exercise, depicting a smallpox attack on the US, was highly influential in the government’s decision to buy national smallpox vaccine stockpile.

  • Findings from 2 Center reports on the US hospital preparedness program became the basis for HHS grant guidance for hospitals and communities around the country.

  • Led and shaped national efforts to engage the public constructively in epidemic and disaster response policies and programs.

    Launched first peer-reviewed journal in the field, Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, later renamed Health Security.

    Health Security Journal cover
  • Center research helped provoke US policy examination of “dual-use research.”

    Began publishing annual health security federal funding articles, used by media and government to understand how biodefense and health security are structured and resourced.

  • Atlantic Storm

    Atlantic Storm exercise demonstrated interdependence of the international community in the face of epidemics and biological weapons.

  • Center analysis and advocacy helped to inform the framework for the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, as well as the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

  • Published first nuclear preparedness guidance aimed at public health, medical, and civic leaders in the Rad Resilient City initiative.

    Rad Resilient City cover
  • Photo from the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative 2012 class

    Created first international fellowship program focused on building biosecurity leadership, Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative.

    First effort to report state-wide public views regarding how to allocate scarce resources in a pandemic.

  • Helped lead and develop the National Health Security Preparedness Index, the first state-by-state index of health preparedness.

  • Helped drive debate on gain-of-function/potential-pandemic-pathogen research, resulting in US government funding pause and new US policy.

  • One of the first NGOs to publicly support and work for the success of the Global Health Security Agenda.

  • Established Track II SE Asian-US & India-US biosecurity dialogues.

  • Published first working paper in field defining global catastrophic biological risks, catalyzing a new focus on these issues in the field.

  • Clade X exercise was first major public tabletop to shine light on major political and policy decisions that will emerge in the event of a global catastrophic biological event.

    Clade X logo



Our Mission

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