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For decades, pundits and policymakers have warned of the possibility that a hostile state actor or non-state terrorist group might deploy a lethal pathogen against the population of their adversaries. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought these hypothetical fears closer to a discernable reality. Though Covid-19 is likely far less lethal than a would-be pathogenic bioweapon, the ravages of the virus has exposed just how unprepared most countries would be in the face of a major bio-attack. This panel will explore the types of bioweapons possessed or sought by hostile regimes and terror organizations, and the lessons we can draw from the Covid-19 outbreak to better prepare for and defend against such attacks.



W. Ian Lipkin, MD is the Director for the Center of Infection and Immunity in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He is internationally recognized for his contributions to global public health through innovative methods he developed for the diagnosis, surveillance, and discovery of infectious diseases. He has been at the forefront of outbreak response to many of the world’s more recent outbreaks, including West Nile virus in New York City in 1999, SARS in China in 2003, MERS in Saudi Arabia from 2012 to 2016, Zika in the U.S. in 2016, encephalitis in India in 2017, and COVID-19 in China and the U.S. at present. Lipkin has also done extensive work in HIV/AIDS, H5N1 (bird flu), H1N1 (swine flu), anthrax, LuJo, Marburg, and Nipah. You may not have heard of some of these because they were identified early with the gene sequencing technology Lipkin developed and were quickly stopped from spreading en masse. Lipkin was the chief scientific adviser for the 2011 film “Contagion,” and consulted in COVID-19 testing protocols and on-site safety for the Democratic National Convention this past August.

Michelle Bentley is Reader in International Relations and Director of the Royal Holloway Centre of International Security (RHISC), at the University of London. She is author of two books: Weapons of Mass Destruction and U.S. Foreign Policy, analyzing WMD and perceptions of mass destructive weaponry; and Syria and the Chemical Weapons Taboo: Exploiting the Forbidden, looking at U.S. foreign policy on the Syrian crisis and the use of chemical arms. She has also co-published two edited volumes on continuity in American foreign policy. She is currently writing her next book on biological weapons and political taboos.

Stuart Gottlieb is Adjunct Professor of International Affairs and Public Policy at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and a Member of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. Gottlieb teaches courses on U.S. foreign policy, counterterrorism, and international security. He also serves as Faculty Director for SIPA’s graduate certificate program in International Relations. Prior to joining SIPA in 2003, Gottlieb worked for five years in the U.S. Senate, first as senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and subsequently as policy adviser and chief speechwriter for Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. He has also worked on several political campaigns, including New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s reelection campaign in 1997 and presidential campaign in 2008. He is author of Debating Terrorism & Counterterrorism: Conflicting Perspectives on Causes, Contexts, and Responses (CQ Press), and the forthcoming Experimental Power: The Rise & Role of America in World Affairs (Yale University Press).