From Panic and Neglect to Investing in Health Security : Financing Pandemic Preparedness at a National Level

A new report by the World Bank’s International Working Group on Financing Preparedness proposes ways in which national governments and development partners can fund investments in country and regional preparedness as well as response capacities for pandemics and other health emergencies. It also calls for the development of insurance products and markets for pandemic risk. Metabiota’s Preparedness Index is cited and discussed. Original story:

With a New CEO, Metabiota Looks to New Markets for Its Epidemic Monitoring Toolkit

Bill Rossi, the new chief executive officer at Metabiota, believes that (unlikely as it seems) the insurance industry might be the key to stopping epidemic outbreaks worldwide — and that Metabiota would supply the monitoring tools to make the product work. Rossi, who quietly took the reins at the San Francisco-based company earlier in the year, said that a new product is being developed by international insurance companies alongside global financial institutions to respond to pandemic risk. The company’s chief executive said that the new policies will provide financing in the wake of deadly pandemics and encourage multi-national corporations and nation-states to invest in preventing the spread of disease. Metabiota launched its insurance product last month and has been pitching its services to insurers, nations, and companies ever since. Indeed, Metabiota is partnering with the African Risk Capacity (ARC) agency, an agency of the  African Union (AU) to help nations respond to threats. The former chief operating officer of Bidgely, an energy software company (backed by Khosla Ventures) that sold to utilities worldwide, and the former chief marketing officer at Enphase Energy, a solar monitoring solution. Perhaps most relevant, Rossi worked at Google selling productivity apps to enterprise customers. A graduate from Dartmouth with an MBA from Harvard, Metabiota’s new chief executive is focused on juicing the company’s growth after 8 years selling to the relatively staid government market. Rossi took over the executive role from co-chief executives Nathan Wolfe and Robert Mann, though Nathan still remains involved with the company. “Most of its history was in government services,” says Rossi. “Government services is a good market, but if the goal is to make the world resistant to epidemic risk and [the insurance product] is one way to make the world more resilient.” Interest in epidemic and pandemic risk insurance has been growing since the Ebola outbreak of 2014. Last year at the G7 finance summit in Japan, financial leaders from the world’s largest economies unveiled the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, a $500 million effort to make funds instantly available for curbing the spread of infectious diseases. Those public funds are being complimented by work insurers are already doing to sell sovereign wealth insurance for epidemic risk, Rossi said. There’s a potential for abuse in these kinds of policies which may provide a perverse incentive to governments which could conceivably profit on the back of insurance payouts in the event that a country is adversely affected by an epidemic (not to be too ghoulish about it). Rossi insists that the insurance policies will encourage countries to establish better monitoring and management tools so that they can respond to outbreaks before they become severe global pandemics. For Rossi and the team at Metabiota, it’s imperative that the governments of countries where these pandemics originate invest in early detection systems for when diseases begin to spread. “These global health threats represent a pretty sizable disruption,” says Rossi. “We work with sovereign nations and also the insurers who have the financial wherewithal to ensure that policies are put in place to prevent the spread of disease.” The threats aren’t academic. Earlier this month the World Health Organization confirmed an outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So far, three deaths were connected to the virus, and another 21 suspected cases are being investigated. A two-year outbreak in West Africa which began in 2014 infected 28,000 people and resulted in 11,000 deaths. ### View original article on Techcrunch  

The Resurgence of Ebola and Global Preparedness

The World Health Organization has confirmed an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with three deaths linked to the resurgence of the virus in central Africa. Health officials are investigating 21 suspected cases in the affected province and estimate that 125 people may have had contact with the confirmed Ebola cases. Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness, which is often fatal if untreated - symptoms can begin two to 21 days after exposure and include fever, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, and hemorrhage. Outbreaks typically begin after the virus is transmitted to a human from an infected wild animal. The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976, with over 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths, resulting in substantial regional and global economic losses and business interruption. It was the first recorded instance of an Ebola outbreak affecting urban areas and spanning across country borders, starting in Guinea and moving to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The largest outbreak of Ebola prior to the West Africa event included 425 cases in Uganda. The current outbreak shares many more features with the relatively small and localized outbreaks that have occurred since 1976 in Central Africa than with the explosive West African outbreak of 2014. The current outbreak is in an isolated rural population with very limited transportation networks to large urban centers, and preliminary epidemiologic investigations suggest the outbreak was identified soon after the virus was introduced to the human population. The Democratic Republic of Congo has 40 years of experience limiting the scope of Ebola outbreaks and international health resources including from WHO and MSF are en route to the affected area. Advances in Global Preparedness  The current Ebola outbreak is further evidence that outbreaks are not rare events, but rather they occur with regularity and demonstrate distinct patterns. Consequently, just as with natural disasters and catastrophes, their risks can be quantified and analyzed to ensure that resources, financing and other support can be implemented to offset their impacts. And the global community is aligned with this focus with renewed vigor in the wake of the 2014 Ebola outbreak. The World Bank Board just endorsed the use of $50 million in regional financing from the International Development Association (IDA) to fund the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF), which provides the first-ever insurance for pandemic risk to developing countries, offering coverage to all countries eligible for financing under IDA, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest.   With this program, eligible countries will receive timely, predictable and coordinated funds if affected by an outbreak that meets PEF’s activation criteria. Metabiota supports this approach and is committed to helping countries and organizations prepare for a capital event and mitigate potential losses from pandemics. Metabiota is partnering with global leaders, including the African Risk Capacity (ARC) agency, a Specialized Agency of the African Union (AU) to help member states improve their capacity to better plan, prepare and respond to outbreaks early to prevent extreme events from occurring. By enabling our partners and customers to precisely quantify exposure to potential losses from infectious disease outbreaks, Metabiota’s insights are helping to lessen the financial blowback of epidemic exposure, while ultimately helping insurers and the global risk community better protect global health and build a more resilient world. Metabiota is continuing to monitor the latest outbreaks and is focused on offering a comprehensive historical infectious disease database with near real-time surveillance and the industry’s largest stochastic catalog, to reinsurance, insurance and governmental organizations worldwide. For additional insights and ongoing prospective, please visit Metabiota Risk Insights. ### Photo credit: CDC Global Health via Visualhunt / CC BY

Can Saving Animals Prevent the Next Deadly Pandemic?

Metabiota received an important mention in this latest article from Smithsonian Magazine describing the delicate link between animals and humans when it comes to pandemics and epidemics. Metabiota’s collaboration with the governmental project, USAID PREDICT, is highlighted. PREDICT is a vital study in understanding how by monitoring and surveilling pathogens in the wild, we might one day be able to better anticipate those species that will jump from animals to humans and perhaps stave off the potential for devastating pandemics. reaches over 2.2 million readers each month. Original article:  

The World Is Not Ready for the Next Pandemic

Metabiota was featured in this week's TIME magazine cover story about global epidemic preparedness.  In addition to a description of Metabiota, the article also cites information about PREDICT and the Global Virome Project.  Most prominently for Metabiota, the article features the following quote: "Outbreaks are like fires," says Dr. Eddy Rubin, chief science officer at Metabiota, a San Francisco-based startup that uses big data to analyze outbreaks and is a partner of PREDICT. "If you're able to understand where there is a greater likelihood of their occurring and detect them early on, you can shift the impact." TIME magazine publishes weekly and has a circulation of 3,032,581. -- SOURCE:  

Latest Measles Outbreak is Challenging Countries Throughout Europe

For years, measles was seen as a relatively rare disease in the United States and certain European countries. But times have changed. Nine European countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland, have each reported more than three dozen cases of measles since the beginning of 2017. Romania is most affected, with approximately 3800 cases and 17 deaths from September 2016 to March 17, 2017. Of reported cases, 96% were individuals who had not been vaccinated. Additionally, Italy has reported 700 cases thus far in 2017 – more than three times the number of cases in the same period last year. On March 24 of this year, a measles-related death of a young man was reported in the Swiss press. While this man’s death was attributed to a weakened immune system resulting from the leukemia treatment he was receiving, Switzerland has experienced 52 cases thus far in 2017 – a tenfold increase from the prior year. Measles outbreaks highlight the classic “spark and spread” nature of infectious diseases. Case in point, an infected traveler brought measles to Disneyland-USA in 2014 (the spark), and the virus transmitted (the spread) to over 120 people in three countries via unvaccinated individuals.  Therefore, mitigating the risk of disease involves understanding both the risk of introduction of disease as well as the cultural and demographic factors associated with transmission, vulnerability and preparedness. “The current outbreak of measles in Europe highlights the need for countries to continue to understand their public health limitations and put in place proactive mitigation strategies. In the case of Switzerland, it was to continue the push for higher vaccination coverage for measles. In other countries, it might be to first identify and quantify their risks ” noted Metabiota’s Chief Scientific Officer, Eddy Rubin. “ Metabiota is continuing to monitor the measles outbreaks in Europe as well as several other ongoing outbreaks throughout the world.  With this information, it is creating dymamic infectious disease scenario modeling for it’s customers worldwide. For additional insights and ongoing prospective, visit Metabiota Risk Insights.

Avian Influenza and the Top Five Epidemic Risk Factors for 2017

Metabiota Chief Science Officer Dr. Eddy Rubin provides perspective on Outbreak News This Week on the spread of Avian Influenza and the state of pathogen risk today.   Founded by microbiologist Robert Herriman, Outbreak News Today and its correlating radio show, Outbreak News This Week, focuses on the latest news and information pertaining to infectious diseases.   Check out the radio interview for more insights about Avian Influenza, its potential risk to the public and how Metabiota is changing the conversation about the best ways to manage and mitigate epidemic threats. Read the full story on Outbreak News Today

Metabiota Experts Weigh in on What First U.S. Case of Avian Influenza Means for the Public

In early March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the detection of highly pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza (HPAI H7N9) at a Tennessee farm. The farm, which contracts to Tyson Foods, has culled the nearly 74-thousand birds to stop the virus from spreading. Moreover, surveillance and control zones have been established around the affected facility; the control zone includes areas within neighboring Alabama, a major producer of broilers. On 16 March, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced a second outbreak of HPAI H7N9 in Tennessee, also in a commercial breeder flock comprising 55,000 chickens. Depopulation is now underway at this facility, and surveillance and testing are being carried out within a 10km radius of the facility. In response to the Tennessee outbreaks, neighboring Alabama’s Department of Agriculture has prohibited poultry exhibitions and assembly of poultry for purposes of sale; this order applies to swap meets, county fairs, festivals, and live bird markets. This order does not apply to commercial farms. This has been a particularly active flu season for avian influenzas in the Northern Hemisphere with implications for animal and human health. European poultry producers have been impacted by the circulation of multiple avian influenza viruses, resulting in economic losses throughout the region. The risk of human infection in poultry outbreaks is generally low, though the potential for an emergent influenza strain becoming more transmissible between humans is a targeted area of monitoring for public health agencies. The CDC has assessed the risk to the public from the North American H7N9 outbreak in commercial poultry to be low. China has been battling an outbreak of low pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza (LPAI H7N9) in chickens; this LPAI virus has resulted in the deaths of nearly 500 people since February 2013. The virus identified in Tennessee is not related to the Chinese LPAI virus, but is of North American wild bird lineage. Over the last decade, we have seen an increased global intensification of livestock production due to the growing worldwide demand for animal protein. The rising totals and density of animals being raised together, as Metabiota first reported in December, puts them at increased risk for infectious disease outbreaks. It is likely that events similar to the HPAI outbreak currently being seen in Tennessee will only increase in frequency in the future. Like the event in Tennessee, avian influenza outbreaks have led to large-scale slaughter of poultry in affected countries, resulting in catastrophic losses for the food industry. In 2014 and 2015, during a widespread outbreak of HPAI, the United States killed nearly 50 million birds, resulting in record highs of U.S. egg prices and prompting trading partners to ban imports of American poultry. “This virus emerging in a U.S. poultry facility is an unfortunate, yet anticipated outcome based on how we’ve seen animal diseases spread in recent years,” said Dr. Eddy Rubin, chief science officer at Metabiota. Infectious disease outbreaks in humans and livestock are not one-off events, and in fact, they illustrate distinct patterns like other natural catastrophes. As such, these events can be insured so that resources, financing and other infrastructure can offset the impact to countries and industries. Metabiota has developed a groundbreaking method to quantify and manage the risk associated with these events.  Leveraging unique expertise from Metabiota’s team of global scientists, with advanced computational risk analytics and an innovative 100-year historical disease database, Metabiota is helping insurers to estimate losses and underwrite policies to make their clients more resilient. Metabiota’s products determine the frequency and severity of epidemic exposure, so that the global community can be better prepared to address and minimize these outbreaks in the future. Metabiota is continuing to monitor this outbreak – for additional insights and ongoing perspective, visit