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May

14
2024

1:30 pm EDT - 4:00 pm EDT

Past Event

Biosafety and the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence and policy implications

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

1:30 pm - 4:00 pm EDT

Online only


The world just lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 7 million reported direct deaths globally, more than 775 million reported cases, more than 14 million indirect excess deaths, and likely millions more unreported deaths. Despite the devastating effects on people and economies around the world, we still do not know with certainty how the pandemic originated, with the two most likely hypotheses either a natural spillover from an animal host or a research lab leak. Finding an answer to this question is not just a matter of doing justice to the millions of victims of COVID-19—it will have significant ramifications for policy implementation to help prevent the next pandemic.

Importantly, the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 disease has shown us that preventing the next pandemic and biosafety in general should be top of mind for researchers, regulators, policymakers and public health officials, and it will likely require an array of measures by private, public, and nongovernmental organizations. This includes reconsidering our early warning systems for emergent diseases from the natural world, and taking a closer look at research with dangerous pathogens in biolabs. Identifying the origins of the recent pandemic can help target those efforts.

On May 14, the Brookings Center on Regulation and Markets held an event to address these complex questions. First, Alina Chan, scientific advisor at the Broad Institute, and Alison Young, Curtis B. Hurley chair in public affairs reporting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, explained why the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus matters for public policy. Then, a balanced expert panel debated the two most likely origins: natural spillover or a leak from a lab. A final panel of biosafety experts discussed what measures would be best suited to improve biosafety and reduce the risks for research-related lab incidents as well as future pandemics. This event was a part of the CRM series on Reimagining Modern-day Markets and Regulations.

Viewers joined the conversation and asked questions of the speakers by emailing [email protected] or on X/Twitter using the hashtag #OriginOfCovid.

Agenda