W. Ian Lipkin, MD, Director, Center for Infection and Immunity, Columbia University
COVID-19 has exposed our vulnerability to pandemic risk and the urgency of addressing the challenges of climate change, food security, and the viral dissemination of misinformation. New molecular diagnostic platforms, investments in wildlife, domestic animal, and human microbial surveillance, and the advent of social media tools that mine the world wide web for clues to outbreaks of infectious disease are all proving invaluable in early recognition of threats to public health. However, inequities in the distribution of resources required for diagnostics and discovery, and lack of trust and transparency remain threats to biosecurity. To address these challenges, we are establishing a global public health consortium comprising of ministries of health and academic institutions. This collaborative global program will focus on creating an infectious disease epidemiology network and has three main objectives: (1) develop a model realizing and extending the goals of the International Health Regulations established by the WHO in 2005 by providing inexpensive, rapid tools for diagnosis discovery, and surveillance of infectious diseases, (2) identify and prioritize infectious agents based on pandemic risk, and (3) share data and build the infrastructure needed to produce, validate and implement drugs and vaccines to reduce morbidity and mortality.