Biological Weapons: Still a Huge Global Threat!

It’s the late summer and an unexplained influenza virus is killing international travelers. Researchers quickly identify the virus as a genetically engineered flu-strain. Intelligence agencies find irrefutable evidence that the virus was created in a secret bioweapons laboratory in a middle income country and was accidentally released.

By the end 50 million people are killed by this pathogen.

This was the scenario presented to a group of experts at the Munich Security Conference in February who participated in what is known as a “Tabletop Exercise” to understand how key international players might respond to a situation like this–and identify ways that such a scenario might be prevented from unfolding in the first place. The scenario was designed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but many of the lessons from the simulation are applicable to this health crisis.

A video from the exercise sets up the scenario confronted by participants:

How did the world respond? And what gaps in global preparedness to a biological weapons event were revealed?

My guest today, Jaime Yassif, helped to design and implement this table top exercise. She is a senior fellow at NTI for Global Biological policy and programs. And in our conversation we discuss what this fictional scenario reveals about very real gaps in international policies to prevent a catastrophic biological weapons event.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn how the world might respond to a bioweapons catastrophic event, have a listen.


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