In September 2023 CEPI announced a “renewed collaboration” with Global Affairs Canada, comprising CAD 1 million in funding to “accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious disease”. The funding will support CEPI’s efforts to “manage the inherent biological security risks” of the century, encourage engagement with the security community, and “catalyse new and stronger health partnerships”. This collaboration also furthers progress on the 100 Days Mission.
“As stewards of global public funds CEPI has a critical responsibility to ensure that CEPI-funded R&D is conducted safely and securely.”
Weapons Threat Reduction
CEPI reports that Global Affairs Canada’s Weapons Threat Reduction Programme (WTRP) is going to support the development and implementation of CEPI’s biosecurity strategy. Heading this up is inaugural Director of Biosecurity, Dr Andrew Hebbeler. Dr Hebbeler is a “globally recognised biosecurity expert” with experience leading “global policy and capacity-building efforts aimed at preventing, detecting, and responding to” biological events. These include natural, accidental, and deliberate events.
To identify relevant initiatives within the sector, CEPI intends to “map the biosecurity landscape” and its “intersection with global health and health-security spaces”. From there the organisation hopes to understand how it can offer “opportunities for alignment and collaboration”.
Trevor Smith, Canada’s Investor Council Representative, commented that the WTRP “recognises the critical role” of vaccines and medical countermeasures in the “fight against the deliberate use of disease”. The programme has been investing in CEPI’s “world-leading R&D since 2017.
“We are proud to build on and further strengthen our collaborative partnership with CEPI through this biosecurity-focused contribution. In the global campaign to prevent, detect, and respond to biological health threats and to build sustainable health-security capacity, multi-sectoral cooperation is imperative.”
Biosecurity meets health
The 100 Days Mission “directly contributes” to health and security goals by contributing to pandemic prevention, regardless of an outbreak’s origin.
“It is imperative that CEPI define the risks and opportunities underpinning expanded investments in the development of safe and effective vaccines and other biologic countermeasures.”
Thus, CEPI can assume a “leadership role”, driving international norms and standards.
Lessons from COVID-19
In CEPI’s announcement in September we are reminded of the “devastating and destabilising effect” that infectious diseases have on society. COVID-19 had consequences for health, economies, and global security. Unfortunately, the risk of emerging infectious diseases is “increasing” thanks to a plethora of moving parts including climate change, urbanisation, and environmental degradation.
Although emerging technology is exciting, creating “new and promising opportunities” to improve health, it also brings “new and evolving risks”. For example, as we explored in our summary of the Brown School of Public Health’s New Species of Trouble, there will be future outbreaks that may be triggered by accidental or deliberate pathogen release, as well as emerging technologies.
“Addressing biosecurity is a key component of strengthening global health security, and ensuring the world is prepared for future epidemics and pandemics.”
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s CEO, believes it is “vital” for countries to be ready to respond to biological threats “no matter the source or cause”.
“Investing in the ability to rapidly develop and manufacture vaccines and other biologic countermeasures against a broad range of potentially dangerous pathogens enables governments to advance their security interests at home and abroad.”
Dr Hatchett is “pleased to elevate the role of biosecurity in CEPI’s mission” and looks forward to the strengthened collaboration with Global Affairs Canada.
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