On the last day of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos and for the third edition in a row, The Bridge Tank held its now traditional “Innovation Lunch” on Davos’ Promenade, partnering with our board member Judit Arenas, APCO Worldwide, and the San Diego-based biotechnology company Illumina to discuss biosecurity and the prevention of bioterrorism.
Participants to this roundtable discussion included renowned specialists, researchers, and C-suite executives, including:
- John Frank, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Illumina
- Richard Hatchett, CEO, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
- Matthew McKnight, General Manager, Biosecurity, Gingko Bioworks
- Frank-Jürgen Richter, Chairman, Horasis
- Megan Palmer, Executive Director of Bio Policy & Leadership Initiatives, Stanford University
- Eric Christopher Cioe-Pena, Founding Director of the Center for Global Health of Northwell Health
- Margery Kraus, Founder and Executive Chairman, APCO Worldwide
- Raphael Schoentgen, Board Member, The Bridge Tank, and CEO, Hydrogen Advisors
The session’s moderation was carried out by none other than John Defterios, former CNN economic analyst and anchor, and senior advisor, APCO Worldwide, and Joel Ruet, Chairman, The Bridge Tank.
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the real-life risk of bioterror and the disruption biological agents can cause to our societies. The participants to this luncheon discussion highlighted the fragility – if not the absence – of appropriate national and international biosecurity frameworks and the lack of necessary biosecurity infrastructure.
With the acceleration of technological innovation and the proliferation of unregulated laboratories for biological experimentation, the risks of bioterror or biowarfare must be taken up by the international community. To quote one of the speakers, “every war starts with one technology and ends with a different one.”
Parallels were notably drawn between biosecurity and national security & cyber-security, as efforts must start at the national level. Cooperation between public health and national security organisations will have to be strengthened, as both are directly affected by the disruptions caused by new pathogens or biological agents. To expand the range of actions and biosecurity safeguards, public sector efforts need to increasingly mobilise and support private sector solutions.
Due to health’s nature as a public good, communication, multilateralism, and coalitions will however also have to be bolstered. The sharing of data could be an entry point to international cooperation and the building of trust to prove that non-cooperation will have more dire consequences than the cost of cooperation.
The quality of the discussions and the ever-growing importance of biosecurity in the shaping of our world revealed the necessity to push these issues to the fore but also for The Bridge Tank to keep them on the agenda of the 2024 edition of the Innovation Lunch in Davos.