For the more than a year now, the world’s focus has been squarely on the COVID-19 pandemic. With over 100 million confirmed cases worldwide and more than two million dead from the virus, it’s hard to imagine how things could get worse. Despite this, a team of experts is already preparing for the next global crisis; warning that some of the possibilities would be more devastating than the current pandemic.
Starting during the summer of 2019, an international team of researchers set out to list the key questions facing the United Kingdom’s biological security. With help from the Centre for Existential Risk (CSER) at the University of Cambridge and the BioRISC project at St. Catharine’s College, 41 academics, industry, and government officials laid out 450 questions regarding a possible biological crisis.
After voting and ranking all of these concerns, a list of 80 of the most urgent questions emerged. Despite compiling this list months before COVID-19, lead researcher Dr. Luke Kemp says this list included major concerns revolving around disease threats. Some of the concerns focused on what role the climate will play on a possible pandemic, while others questioned the use of social media to track emerging viruses.
Is a biological threat worse than coronavirus coming?
Some of the 80 concerns look at an even more sinister possibility on the horizon. As DNA testing becomes a more fashionable tool for both governments and everyday people, researchers warn that threats from “human-engineered agents” pose a huge threat to the entire world.
“We could encounter not just microbes, but anything from brain-altering bioweapons, to mass surveillance through DNA databases to low-carbon clothes produced by microorganisms,” Dr. Kemp says in a university release.