UPMC Center for Health Security — Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative

Fellows of the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative at the 2015 Fall Workshop. (Photo courtesy of the UPMC Center for Health Security)
Organization Name 
Award Date 
10/2016
Grant Amount 
$2,744,000
Purpose 
To support the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI).

Published: October 2016

UPMC Center for Health Security staff reviewed this page prior to publication.

The Open Philanthropy Project awarded a grant of $2,744,000 to the UPMC Center for Health Security to support the Emerging Leaders in Biosecurity Initiative (ELBI) for the next three years.

ELBI is a biosecurity leadership development and training program that focuses on early career professionals in the field and qualified people seeking to enter the field. ELBI recruits a class of approximately 28 fellows each year, runs meetings that expose the fellows to a broad range of biosecurity and pandemic preparedness sub-fields, and provides networking opportunities with their peers and senior experts.

We see the lack of a leadership pipeline as a significant gap in the biosecurity and pandemic preparedness (BPP) space. Specifically, we believe that ELBI can contribute to building this field in the following ways:

  1. Providing an on-ramp to a career in biosecurity and pandemic preparedness for young people trained in relevant fields, as well as ongoing training for early-career biosecurity professionals. Our impression is that this field is relatively small, both in terms of people and available funding. We think the small talent pool of subject matter experts will be a rate-limiting factor in our efforts to grow this field.
  2. Building connections across disciplines within the large, multidisciplinary field of biosecurity and pandemic preparedness. Our impression is that BPP sub-fields are often siloed from one another; we see this as a significant obstacle given our understanding that many of the hard problems in this space are complex and require expertise from and cooperation across multiple sub-fields. We believe that ELBI can address this by helping fellows establish diverse peer networks and broadening their expertise across multiple disciplines.
  3. Helping improve US government decision-making on biosecurity and pandemic preparedness. We believe ELBI can contribute in the near term by helping to bring new ideas and approaches to the attention of staff within relevant government agencies. In the longer term we think ELBI can help get better-qualified people, with subject-matter expertise and connections throughout the field, into biosecurity-related leadership positions within government.

This grant is intended to support the continuation of this annual program and provide additional resources to run programs for the growing ELBI alumni network. For the first five years of its program, ELBI was funded by the Department of Defense (DoD). Our understanding is that, for reasons unrelated to the quality of the program, DoD is not planning to renew support for it this year, and that the possibility of future DoD funding for the program is uncertain.

Our highly positive impression of ELBI is based in part on the opinion of Jaime Yassif (our Program Officer for Biosecurity and Pandemic Preparedness), in part on our observation that the program has a strong reputation throughout the field, and in part on our favorable view of the UPMC Center for Health Security, which runs the program. Jaime is a 2012 alumna of ELBI.