Summer Workshop on Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and Global Health Security

Summer Workshop on Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and Global Health Security


The 2020 workshop on Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and Global Health Security has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interest of public health, George Mason University has cancelled all on-campus events through mid-August. We hope you and your family stay healthy and safe during these turbulent times. If you are working on the response to COVID-19, we would like to thank you for your hard work and dedication to global health security. We are confident that the 2021 workshop will offer critical insights into the causes and consequences of this pandemic and how to ensure that the world is better prepared for the next pandemic. We hope to see you at next summer’s workshop.

You can stay up-to-date with the Biodefense Graduate Program and the latest news and events in global health security by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, the Pandora Report, liking the program on Facebook, following us on Twitter (@pandorareport), and joining the Pandemics, Bioterrorism, and Global Health Security group on LinkedIn.


Date: July 13th - 16th, 2020

Time: Monday, July 13, 2020 at 9:00 AM - Thursday, July 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT

Location: George Mason University, Arlington Campus, Van Metre Hall

As the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread around the world, it is exposing just how unprepared governments, companies, and societies are for a global pandemic. Although COVID-19 poses an unprecedented set of challenges, it is only the most recent threat to global health security to emerge, and certainly not the last. Pandemics, Bioterrorism and Global Health Security is a three and a half-day workshop, non-credit summer workshop designed to introduce participants to the challenges facing the world at the intersection of national security, public health, and the life sciences. The workshop faculty are internationally recognized experts from the government, private sector, and academia who have extensive experience with research and policy-making on public health, biodefense, and national security issues. The workshop is organized by the Biodefense Graduate Program at the Schar School of Policy and Government and will be held at the Schar School's campus in Arlington, Virginia on July 13-16, 2020.

Threats to global health security continue to evolve due to the changing nature of conflict, advances in science and technology, globalization, and the growing threat posed by emerging infectious diseases and pandemics. Private and public organizations face a number of challenges in adapting to the changing global biosecurity landscape. The spectrum of biological threats is diverse, including naturally occurring disease outbreaks such as COVID-19, Zika, and Ebola, lapses in biosafety, dual-use research of concern, and the threat of bioterrorism. A severe disease outbreak, whether natural or man-made, can affect not just public health, but also public safety, national security, and the global economy. Pandemics and bioterrorist attacks will confront government agencies and the private sector with the need to make high-impact decisions with limited information during a rapidly evolving situation. Further complicating this domain is the dual-use nature of biology: the knowledge, skills, and technology developed for legitimate scientific and commercial purposes can be misused by those with hostile intent. Research with dangerous pathogens and the development of advanced biotechnologies such as synthetic biology and genome editing poses a dilemma for policy-makers and researchers who seek to maximize the benefits of such research while minimizing the risks. Thus, public health and healthcare organizations, law enforcement and national security agencies, the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and the academic life sciences community need to develop new types of expertise, adopt new types of risk assessment and risk management strategies, and learn to collaborate with each other.

Implementing these new priorities will require substantial organizational learning and change. But large organizations have deeply embedded professional norms and organizational culture that make them resistant to change, even during times of crisis. Each organization responds with its own routines, and its own distinctive view of “the threat,” which dilutes new initiatives, encourages stovepiping, and impedes effective collaboration. These organizational tendencies grow even more pronounced during times of declining budgets. Thus, while the need for collaboration is great, the potential for differing organizational styles to produce conflict is high.

The current COVID-19 pandemic, 1976 swine flu scare, 2001 anthrax letter attacks, SARS and avian influenza outbreaks, 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and 2015-2017 Zika outbreak provide rich case studies of how governments and international organizations have struggled to address novel biological threats, make high-impact decisions with limited information, and work effectively with new partners. The lessons from these cases are broadly applicable to both public and private organizations seeking to address current and emerging biosecurity risks.

•Syllabus and reading materials
•Social hour after first day of course
•Light breakfast, coffee, and lunch provided on all days
•Certificate of Attendance

Courses Objectives
•Identify the range of biological threats and assess the risks they pose to public health, national security, and the economy.
•Describe impediments to organizational change and identify strategies for overcoming these obstacles.
•Examine lessons learned so far from the COVID-19 pandemic and past outbreaks of anthrax, avian flu, Ebola, pandemic flu, and SARS.
•Explore the dual-use dilemma and how to balance the benefits of advanced biotechnologies against the safety and security risks they can pose.
•Investigate the growing importance of biotechnology to the national economy, domestic and international risks to biotechnology innovation, and legal, policy, and regulatory measures for safeguarding the bioeconomy.
•Understand the technical, political, regulatory, and financial obstacles to developing new medical countermeasures for bioterrorist and pandemic threats.

Who Should Attend
Professionals and academics, both domestic and international, in public health, medicine and nursing, the life sciences, the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, international affairs, law enforcement, emergency management, biosafety and biosecurity, and national security who have responsibilities for preventing, preparing for, or responding to pandemics, bioterrorism, and other threats to global health security.

Past participants have come from a range of government agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, US Marine Corps, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories; private and non-profit organizations such as CRDF Global, Battelle Memorial Institute, Emergent Biosolutions, Booz Allen Hamilton, BAE Systems, Engility, Noblis, Quest Diagnostics, Synthetic Genomics, Sanofi, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, and Merrick & Company; universities and think tanks such as Virginia Tech, Kent State University, University of South Florida, Institute for Defense Analysis, MITRE, UC Berkeley, National Defense University, University of Sussex, SAIS, Georgetown University, and ANSER; and foreign countries, including the Center for Biosecurity and Biopreparedness in Denmark, the Biosecurity Office of the Netherlands, the Rwanda Ministry of Agriculture, the Philippine National Police Force, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health in Georgia, and Defence Research and Development Canada.


Please note that we will only be accepting payment by credit card for this event.

Prior to May 1, the course fee is $1,200. After May 1, the course fee is $1,400. Discounts are available for George Mason University faculty, students, and alum and for groups of three or more from the same organization. If you qualify for one of these discounts or have any questions regarding registration, please email

*Cancellation Policy: Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be continuously monitoring the situation. Should the event be cancelled, full refunds for registration will be provided. GMU is not responsible for travel-associated expenses incurred by participants. Refunds will be available if registration is canceled prior to the start to the start of the workshop (July 13, 2020).

Are you a prospective student interested in learning more about our master’s, PhD, and graduate certificate programs? If so, we encourage you to sign up for our email list to be in touch with the Schar School’s Office of Graduate Admissions and stay up-to-date on recruitment events and open houses. To join the prospective graduate student email list, click here .