Converging and emerging threats to health security

C. Raina Macintyre, Thomas Edward Engells, Matthew Scotch, David James Heslop, Abba B. Gumel, George Poste, Xin Chen*, Wesley Herche, Kathleen Steinhöfel, Samsung Lim, Alex Broom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Advances in biological sciences have outpaced regulatory and legal frameworks for biosecurity. Simultaneously, there has been a convergence of scientific disciplines such as synthetic biology, data science, advanced computing and many other technologies, which all have applications in health. For example, advances in cybercrime methods have created ransomware attacks on hospitals, which can cripple health systems and threaten human life. New kinds of biological weapons which fall outside of traditional Cold War era thinking can be created synthetically using genetic code. These convergent trajectories are dramatically expanding the repertoire of methods which can be used for benefit or harm. We describe a new risk landscape for which there are few precedents, and where regulation and mitigation are a challenge. Rapidly evolving patterns of technology convergence and proliferation of dual-use risks expose inadequate societal preparedness. We outline examples in the areas of biological weapons, antimicrobial resistance, laboratory security and cybersecurity in health care. New challenges in health security such as precision harm in medicine can no longer be addressed within the isolated vertical silo of health, but require cross-disciplinary solutions from other fields. Nor can they cannot be managed effectively by individual countries. We outline the case for new cross-disciplinary approaches in risk analysis to an altered risk landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironment Systems and Decisions
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Nov 2017


  • Biosecurity
  • Cybersecurity
  • Disasters
  • Health intelligence
  • Terrorism


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