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US and UK announce biosecurity alliance to counter pandemics and bioterrorism

The UK and US have agreed to work together to counter growing biological threats such as pandemics, antimicrobial resistance and bioterrorism.

The two nations announced a new strategic dialogue on biosecurity on Tuesday.

The Cabinet Office said this will strengthen their collaboration on bio-surveillance to detect threats to humans, animals, plants and the environment; vaccine and therapeutics development; research and development for a swifter response to disease outbreaks; microbial forensics; and promoting global responsible innovation in biotechnology, health and life sciences.

Oliver Dowden
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said the alliance builds resilience in the face of increased biosecurity threats (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Announced by the Cabinet Office and White House National Security Council, the partnership builds on existing commitments made in the Atlantic Declaration signed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Joe Biden in Washington last June to bolster UK-US economic ties.

In a further bid to boost the UK’s biosecurity capabilities, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden also announced a £2 million uplift for the Guy’s and St Thomas’ respiratory metagenomics project, which uses genetic sequencing to detect pathogens while providing crucial data on emerging diseases.

Mr Dowden, who is visiting St Thomas’ Hospital to see progress on the scheme, said: “I am pleased to be announcing this strategic partnership with the UK’s closest ally, the United States, which reflects our shared ambitions to build resilience in the face of increased biosecurity threats.

“Schemes such as the respiratory metagenomics project are key to increasing our biosecurity, with the work done at Guy’s and St Thomas’ serving the dual purpose of improved NHS diagnosis and informing systems to monitor infectious diseases which threaten the health and economic security of our nation.”

Professor Ian Abbs, chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Through metagenomic testing, we can now identify and treat infections faster than ever before. Our ambition for diagnosing within hours rather than days is becoming a reality.

“The benefits of this investment in the metagenomics service will in time reach beyond our wards to provide this capability at hospitals across England, identifying emerging pathogens at a national scale.”