Biosecurity & Pandemic Preparedness Bundle

The Biosecurity & Pandemic Preparedness bundle aims to reduce risk from especially dangerous pathogens, both natural and human-made. 

Projects in this bundle address biorisk through strategies such as:

  • Reducing the risk of sophisticated actors misusing biotechnology to deliberately or accidentally cause catastrophic harm

  • Identifying and implementing new solutions to prevent, investigate and rapidly respond to high-consequence biological events

  • Addressing the root causes of potential bioweapons development by powerful actors

Biosecurity & Pandemic Preparedness is a promising cause area due to its scale and neglectedness.

Previous disease epidemics, such as the bubonic plague in Europe, or the introduction of smallpox into the Americas were responsible for many millions of deaths. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shows the scale of damage they can cause—but compared to the worst pandemics in history, it’s relatively mild. 

Furthermore, natural pandemics are not the only biological threat. As early as 600 B.C.E., armies were using primitive biological weapons—“filth and cadavers, animal carcasses, and contagion”—against their enemies. In the last century, improvements in biotech have enabled researchers to design and manufacture biological weapons. A genetically-engineered pathogen to which few humans had immune resistance could be devastating on a global scale, especially in today’s hyper-connected world.

Despite all this, biosecurity & pandemic preparedness is woefully underfunded by the U.S. government ($12.45 billion in 2018, though only 12.5% of that is explicitly focused on biosecurity). Philanthropic involvement in this area is quite limited. This results in absurd scenarios, like the global Biological Weapons Convention having an annual budget of $1.4 million, which is half the budget of the average McDonalds.

The organizations included in this bundle are chosen based on recommendations from Open Philanthropy and Founders Pledge.

Further reading