Virtual Summer Workshop on Pandemics and Global Health Security

COVID-19 has exposed just how unprepared governments, corporations, and societies are for a global pandemic. While the SARS-CoV-2 virus is only the most recent threat to global health security, it will certainly not be the last. Threats to global health security continue to evolve due to the emergence of new infectious diseases, globalization, advances in science and technology, and the changing nature of conflict.

Pandemics and Global Health Security is a three-day virtual, non-credit workshop designed to introduce participants to the challenges facing the world at the intersection of pandemic preparedness and response, public health, national security, and the life sciences. Over the course of three days, participants will discuss how the biology and epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 contributed to the emergence of that virus as a global pandemic, lessons learned from Operation Warp Speed about the development of medical countermeasures, obstacles to hospital biopreparedness, challenges to science communication during a pandemic, the bioethics of resource allocation during a public health emergency, the future of global health security, and the role of science and technology in preventing and responding to pandemics. The workshop faculty are internationally recognized experts from the government, private sector, and academia who have been extensively involved in research and policy-making on public health, biodefense, and security issues. The workshop is organized by the Biodefense Graduate Program at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and will be held virtually on July 19-21, 2021. Each day will run from 9am to 12:30pm ET.

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, influenza, and Ebola, lapses in biosafety, dual-use research of concern, and the threat of bioterrorism. A severe disease outbreak, whether natural or human-made, can affect not just the health, but also the wealth, stability, and security of an entire nation and have broad international consequences. In the event of such an outbreak, government agencies and the private sector will need to make high-impact decisions with limited information during a rapidly evolving situation. Furthermore, research with dangerous pathogens and the development of advanced biotechnologies such as synthetic biology and genome editing pose a dilemma for policy-makers and researchers who seek to maximize the benefits of such research while minimizing the risks. Thus, the public health, healthcare, pharmaceutical, biotech, emergency management, law enforcement, national security, and life sciences communities need to develop new types of expertise, adopt new types of risk assessment and risk management strategies, and learn to collaborate with each other to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the full spectrum of threats to global health security.


  • Live, interactive sessions with workshop faculty including Dr. Rick Bright, The Rockefeller Foundation; Dr. Nicholas G. Evans, University of Massachusetts-Lowell; Dr. Andrew Kilianski, Department of Defense; Dr. Gregory D. Koblentz, George Mason University; Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; Dr. Saskia Popescu, George Mason University; Dr. Angela L. Rasmussen, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre; and Jessica Malaty Rivera, COVID Tracking Project.
  • Syllabus and reading materials
  • Certificate of Attendance

Courses Objectives

  • Identify the key characteristics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and how these attributes contributed to the magnitude and intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Examine lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and other disease outbreaks to inform strategies for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
  • Understand the role of reliable information and effective communication in managing an infodemic in the midst of a pandemic.
  • Explore the role of science and technology in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
  • Identify obstacles and opportunities for enhancing hospital biopreparedness and strengthening healthcare system resilience.
  • Consider the ethical dimensions of public health emergency responses in the context of social, political, economic and health disparities, inequities, and inequalities.
  • Understand the technical, political, regulatory, ethical, and financial obstacles to developing new medical countermeasures.
  • Discuss the future of global health security in a post-COVID world.

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 (HHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of the Army, US Marine Corps (USMC), Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and 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, Future of Humanity Institute, 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.


Prior to June 18, the workshop fee is $400. Starting June 18, the workshop fee is $500. 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, please email to receive a promo code. Register here.

*Cancellation Policy: Refunds will be available if cancelled prior to the start to the start of the workshop (July 19, 2021).


The summer workshop will be held virtually on July 19-21, 2021 on Zoom. Registrants will receive a syllabus and reading materials before the workshop and a unique passcode to access the workshop sessions.

List of Instructors

Dr. Gregory D. Koblentz is an Associate Professor and Director of the Master’s in Biodefense and PhD in Biodefense at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. He is also an Associate Faculty at the Center for Security Policy Studies at George Mason and a member of the Scientist Working Group on Chemical and Biological Security at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington, DC. During 2012-2013, he was a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations where he conducted research on nuclear proliferation. In 2016, Koblentz briefed the United Nations Security Council on the impact of emerging technologies on the risk of terrorists acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction.

Prior to arriving at George Mason, Koblentz was a visiting assistant professor in the School of Foreign Service and Department of Government at Georgetown University. He has also worked for the Executive Session on Domestic Preparedness at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Koblentz is the author of Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age (Council on Foreign Relations, 2014) and Living Weapons: Biological Warfare and International Security (Cornell University Press, 2009) and co-author of Editing Biosecurity: Needs and Strategies for Governing Genome Editing (George Mason University and Stanford University, 2018) and Tracking Nuclear Proliferation: A Guide in Maps and Charts (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1998). He has published widely on issues related to biodefense, biosecurity, dual-use research, and the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. He received a PhD in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MPP from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Dr. Saskia Popescu is an assistant professor in the Biodefense Program within the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist and infection preventionist with a focus on hospital biopreparedness and the role of infection prevention in health security efforts. She currently serves as a member of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Coronavirus Taskforce and is a member of the Committee on Data Needs to Monitor Evolution of SARS-CoV-2 within the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). Popescu is also an Alumni Fellow of the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI) at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Prior to joining Mason, Popescu worked as infection prevention epidemiologist in several large healthcare systems, working to enhance readiness and biopreparedness. More recently, she created and disseminated a gap analysis for a six-hospital system to establish vulnerabilities for high-consequence diseases, helping to guide the creation of a high-consequence disease initiative to enhance readiness at the healthcare level. This work aided in rapid and coordinated responses to COVID-19. Her research on infection prevention and enhancing hospital response to infectious diseases events has resulted in several peer-reviewed publications. She is certified in infection prevention (CIC), hospital preparedness through FEMA’s NIMS, and pandemic preparedness from the DHS Center for Domestic Preparedness. Popescu’s research addresses gaps within global health security, biodefense, healthcare biopreparedness, and the integration of antimicrobial resistance into global health security initiatives. She also serves as an adjunct professor in the University of Arizona College of Public Health Epidemiology and Biostatistics program. Dr. Popescu received her PhD in Biodefense from the Schar School; a MPH with a focus on infectious disease epidemiology and a MA in International Security Studies from the University of Arizona.

Dr. Rick Bright is Senior Vice President for Pandemic Prevention and Response at the Rockefeller Foundation where he leads the development of the Foundation’s pandemic data and action platform that will prevent future pandemics by identifying and responding to the earliest alerts of a disease outbreak and stopping it in the first 100 days. Bright has extensive experience in global public health, working with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PATH, and the private sector making key advancements in vaccine and therapeutic developments for influenza viruses with pandemic potential and new vaccine, treatment, and testing technologies.

For several decades, Bright has been instrumental on the frontlines of work to address international response plans and innovation to address emerging infectious diseases. He has served as a key advisor in a number of roles, including in the development of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the WHO Research and Development Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics, the WHO Global Action Plan for Influenza vaccines, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine Forum on Microbial Threats.

He led and coordinated the U.S. and global medical countermeasure development for the 2014 MERS outbreak (another coronavirus) and served as Incident Commander for medical countermeasure response against the Zika virus in 2016. Most recently, Bright served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and Director of the esteemed Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Bright resigned from government service in protest over the Trump administration’s approach to handling the Covid-19 pandemic, specifically over the level of political interference over science and the spread of inaccurate information that he said was ‘dangerous, reckless and causing lives to be lost’.

Dr. Bright earned a Ph.D. in immunology and molecular pathogenesis (virology) from the Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Nicholas G. Evans is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. A 2020-2023 Greenwall Foundation Faculty Scholar, he currently conducts research on the ethics of emerging technologies, with a focus on national security issues. He is best known for his research on “dual-use research” in the life sciences and has recently begun work examining research ethics concerns arising from the performance enhancement of active military personnel, funded by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

In addition to his work on emerging technologies, Dr. Evans is a recognized expert in public health ethics, writing on the ethics of social distancing, research ethics during health emergencies, and the use of force in pandemic response. His 2016 collection, Ebola’s Message: Public Health and Medicine in the 21st Century received favorable reviews in Nature. In late 2021 he will publish a new, sole-authored work on pandemic preparedness with The MIT Press titled, War on All Fronts: A Theory of Just Health Security. Prior to his appointment at the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Evans completed postdoctoral research at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015, he held an Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative Fellowship at the UPMC Center for Health Security. He also previously served as a policy officer with the Australian Department of Health and Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Dr. Andy Kilianski is the Chief Intelligence Officer for the Department of Defense’s Joint Program Executive Office for CBRN Defense. As the CINO for JPEO- CBRND, his work focuses on combating weapons of mass destruction and infectious diseases, counterintelligence threats to the DoD’s Chemical and Biological Defense Program, and emerging threat characterization and assessment. He is also an adjunct professor with the Biodefense Program in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

Dr. Kilianski previously worked in CBRN defense and emerging technology analysis at the Department of Defense. At DoD, he led teams of analysts covering worldwide WMD and medical science and technology developments. In this role he was awarded the National Intelligence Professional Award and the National Counterterrorism Award from the Director of National Intelligence for leading USG-efforts to combat WMD proliferation. Prior to entering public service, Dr. Kilianski was a National Academy of Sciences Fellow with the U.S. Army at Edgewood Chemical Biological Center where he led research and program development for integrated biosurveillance and the identification and characterization of novel agents that threaten today’s warfighter.

His research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as PLoS PathogensJournal of Virology, and Emerging Infectious Diseases while also publishing multiple commentaries on emerging threat science policy. He received his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from Loyola University Chicago where he discovered virus-host interactions necessary for coronavirus pathogenesis. His worked included vaccine and antiviral development against the emerging human viruses Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses.

Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo is a Senior Scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering and the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. An epidemiologist by training, her work focuses on global health security, with a focus on pandemic preparedness, outbreak detection and response, health systems as they relate to global health security, biosurveillance, and infectious disease diagnostics. She directs the Outbreak Observatory, which conducts, in partnership with frontline public health practitioners, operational research to improve outbreak preparedness and response. Dr. Nuzzo is also the lead epidemiologist for the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Testing Insights Initiative housed within the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Together with colleagues from the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Economist Intelligence Unit, she co-leads the development of the first-ever Global Health Security Index, which benchmarks 195 countries’ public health and healthcare capacities and capabilities, their commitment to international norms and global health security financing, and their socioeconomic, political, and environmental risk environments.

Previously, she conducted research related to the Affordable Care Act, tuberculosis control, foodborne outbreaks, and water security. In addition to her work at the Center, Dr. Nuzzo advises national governments and for-profit and nonprofit organizations on pandemic preparedness and response, including COVID-19. She has also served as a member of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council (NDWAC) and the NDWAC’s Water Security Working Group. Prior to joining the Center for Health Security, Dr. Nuzzo worked as a public health epidemiologist for the City of New York, where she was involved with disease and syndromic surveillance efforts related to the city’s Waterborne Disease Risk Assessment Program. Central to her duties was the management of an over-the-counter medication sales monitoring program, which was part of the city’s syndromic surveillance efforts.

Dr. Nuzzo received a DrPH in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, an SM in environmental health from Harvard University, and a BS in environmental sciences from Rutgers University.

Dr. Angela L. Rasmussen is a virologist with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac), a vaccine research institute at the University of Saskatchewan. She is currently a member of the Verena Consortium, a multi-disciplinary, international effort to predict and study emerging viral pathogens. She is also an affiliate of the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security. Dr. Rasmussen studies the role of the host response in emerging virus pathogenesis, with a particular interest in viruses that are or have the potential to be major threats to global health, such as influenza, dengue, Ebola, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2. Her research objectives are to identify host response signatures predictive of infection severity or disease outcome and host pathways to target drug development or repurposing.

Dr. Rasmussen has published numerous original research articles in the peer-reviewed literature and serves on the editorial board of Cell Reports and mSphere. In addition to her scientific work, she believes that engagement of the public is essential to successful public health initiatives and is an active and outspoken science communicator. She has written for Forbes, Foreign Affairs, Slate, the Guardian, and Leapsmag, and appeared many times in media outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio, ABC, NBC, CNN, CBC, and BBC. She is also an advocate for equitable and inclusive science and serves on the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director’s Working Group on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment. She received an M.Phil in Microbiology and a PhD in Microbiology, both from Columbia University.

Jessica Malaty Rivera is an infectious disease epidemiologist and science communicator. She earned her MS in Emerging Infectious Diseases from the Georgetown School of Medicine and has dedicated the last 15 years of her career to disease surveillance research, public health policy, and vaccine advocacy. Her specialty is translating complex scientific concepts into impactful, judgement-free, and accessible information for a diverse audience. She is currently the Science Communication Lead for The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic, a researcher with the COVID-19 Dispersed Volunteer Research Network, and an expert contributor for NBC Bay Area and CNN. Between her day jobs and being a full time mama to two little kids, she also dedicates several hours a week to promoting science literacy and debunking misinformation on Twitter and Instagram.

Have questions about the Summer Workshop on Pandemics and Global Health Security? Contact Schar School of Policy and Government.