Preventing the Next Pandemics: An Upstream Approach to Novel National Security Threats

Author: Alex Dehgan


COVID-19 is estimated to cost the global economy between $8 to $15 trillion USD, but it is not the first such outbreak, nor will it be the last. Since the 1970's, 70% of emerging infectious diseases have been at the human-wildlife boundary, with new infectious diseases emerging at a faster rate than ever before. This memo proposes a series of actions to shift the focus of our existing strategies from merely reacting to disease outbreaks – which is economically devastating – to detecting, addressing, and mitigating the major upstream factors that contribute to the emergence of such diseases prior to an outbreak, and would come at orders of magnitude lower cost.

To achieve this, the next administration should

  1. launch a strategy aimed at strengthening biosurveillance systems at home and abroad through a global viral weather system for spillover, including harnessing technology and data science to create predictive risk systems;

  2. eliminate existing barriers in international development and foreign policy between food security, global health, and environmental sustainability by establishing a coordinator for planetary health;

  3. address and alter the incentive structures that facilitate spillover, and create new incentives for investments to reduce the risk for spillover through institutions like the Development Finance Corporation; and

  4. create the world’s first climate & biodiversity neutral development agency, to ensure that our development investments aren’t facilitating spillover risks.

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About the Author

Dr. Dehgan is the CEO and co-founder of Conservation X Labs, an innovation and technology startup focused on conservation. Conservation X Labs both builds new technologies for addressing the underlying drivers of extinction, and harnesses open innovation & mass collaboration to attra