Biosecurity research and development by the military and for health security purposes: a literature review


An extensive overview published by the Graduate Centre Geneva's Global Health Centre reviews the available evidence on biosecurity research and development (R&D), defined as "the development of medical products and strategies to address biological threats to security." The review finds that the literature generally refers to efforts to address chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents and emerging infectious diseases, and that while such research has historically been the preserve of military actors, in particular the US military - concerned with "force protection" and national security - a broader array of institutions has become active in the field in recent years.

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"This paper has offered a synthesis of the English-language literature on biosecurity R&D, and – reflecting the literature – has focused heavily on the US system. The overall approach for biosecurity R&D in the US can be summarized as: identifying current and future threats, setting priorities for countermeasure development, investing public funds directly in R&D by public and private actors, and providing incentives for private investment and R&D activity. The purpose, capacity, and financing of R&D for biosecurity influences the way R&D efforts are organized. Biosecurity R&D was built on a historical legacy of military R&D, with sustained investment from the government budget. The driver of continued military investment in R&D is civic duty and a mandate to protect national security. Private sector involvement in biosecurity R&D is heavily shaped by public funding, and legal, regulatory, technological, and financial incentives. Overall, increased awareness of the threat of emerging and re-emerging infectious disease outbreaks, seems to determine which countermeasures are a priority and how quickly they progress through the pipeline. The Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have profound impacts on national and global approaches to biosecurity R&D; this paper has offered a picture of the US pre-Covid-19 countermeasure R&D system, experiences from which are likely to shape policy debates in the years to come."

Source: Research Synthesis: Biosecurity Research and Development (R&D) (, link)

Full-text of the review as a pdf file

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