Biological Risks in the 21st Century

Stefan Elbe

lundi 16 janvier 2017

Can a pill strengthen national security? The suggestion may seem odd, but governments around the world have come to believe precisely that. Several states now consider the ability to rapidly develop new medicines and vaccines as critical to their national security. In an interconnected world, security is no longer about armed force alone; it also entails protecting populations against a spectrum of biological risks. The spread of a new pandemic, a bioterrorist attack, or even an accidental laboratory release could all cause mass deaths, crippling economic shocks, and widespread societal disruption. Governments are therefore trying to work more closely with companies to develop new pharmaceutical defenses – or ‘medical countermeasures’ – to better protect their populations against such threats. Yet the quest to secure populations pharmaceutically is proving fiendishly difficult to implement in practice. It is also generating a maelstrom of policy dilemmas and controversies along the way: Why is it so difficult to develop new medical countermeasures against deadly – but also highly unpredictable – diseases? How do the power dynamics play out between pharmaceutical companies, governments and other actors in this quest? Will authorities ever get to a point where they can rapidly make new medicines available in response to dangerous outbreaks? This talk explores the growing entanglement of pharmaceuticals and security through an in-depth study of the world’s most prominent medical countermeasure – Tamiflu.