A Framework for Tomorrow’s Pathogen Research

A Framework for Tomorrow’s Pathogen Research

A Framework for Tomorrow’s Pathogen Research (p. 59) (2024) Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began more than 75 years ago as an emergency action by scientists who saw an immediate need for a public reckoning in the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The scale of the loss of life and the obliteration of these cities in the late summer of 1945 proved a wake-up call for physicists about the potential destructive power and potential uses of their science and its newfound role in waging war. Many scientists at the time anticipated that the atom bomb would be “… only the first of many dangerous presents from the Pandora’s Box of modern science.”

Humankind now faces additional threats and the Bulletin grapples with many of them, including those posed by advances in biological research. The Bulletin publishes influential pieces on biosafety and biosecurity, advances in genetic engineering, the role of artificial intelligence in the future of medicine, and other relevant topics.

As a not-for-profit organization the Bulletin is independent of government funding and influence. Its magazine is found in nearly 10,000 libraries worldwide and its website draws more than 11 million pageviews per year; nearly half of its readers are younger than 35 years of age and half reside outside the United States. In 2022, the Bulletin convened an independent panel of experts in biosecurity, epidemiology, virology, ethics, and other areas: the Task Force on Research with Pandemic Risks. What follows is its report.

Worldwide, there are several other important initiatives underway that align with the work of the Task Force. Each initiative calls for broader and more sustained engagement by life scientists with a broad set of stakeholders to address the risk posed by technical advances in the life sciences. The Task Force exemplifies a response to such calls. Because the Task Force is non-governmental, international, multi-disciplinary and includes members from a variety of civic institutions, the goal is to offer a perspective that complements other initiatives.