Understanding the Norms and Practices of Pathogen-Sharing to Improve Global Health Security

How can we improve international arrangements for pathogen- and benefit-sharing to ensure health security for all?

Project Summary

Infectious diseases pose a threat to national security, but also have an economic value through the pathogen sharing practices, which aim to prevent, or at least strenghten capacities of reaction in case of crises. The Ebola crisis proved how critical pathogen sharing is to controlling outbreaks and thus, how beneficial sharing can be. However, existing governing frameworks for this process have several shortcomings, are under strain, and are very complicated. Furthermore, there are emergent technologies that take away the incentives to share.

The research questions guiding the analysis are as follows:

  • How can pathogen- and benefit-sharing practices be measured, described and meaningfully assessed?
  • What are the most important determinants of pathogen-sharing and non-sharing?  
  • What specific global governance tools and instruments are likely to be most effective?

The methodology envisaged to answer them includes both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Metrics will be developed for pathogen-sharing and they will be submitted to specialized focus groups for discussions and analysis. Two case studies of Ebola and Zika will be analyzed in depth. Hypotheses for policy will be developed and tested. 

Working Paper

“Everybody knows this needs to be done but nobody really wants to do it: governing pathogen – and benefit sharing (PBS)”

Access to pathogens and the sharing of benefits arising from their use is a key concern for global health. Across recent outbreaks, including Ebola, Zika, MERS-CoV, and the newly emergent SARS-CoV-2, questions around the sharing of samples and related genomic sequencing data (GSD) and their associated benefits have been central considerations. Given a growing recognition of the need to ensure timely and fair pathogen- and benefit-sharing (PBS)1 for pathogens of pandemic potential among humans, a 4-hour online workshop, Governing Pathogen- and Benefit-Sharing: From pandemic influenza to other pathogens of pandemic potential, was held on July 2, 2020. In advance of the meeting, the organizers2 prepared a draft research report on drivers and challenges for PBS and the breadth and scope of policy options proposed for PBS governance.

Research Team

Suerie Moon
The Graduate Institute

Gian Luca Burci
The Graduate Institute

Anthony Rizk
Principal Member
The Graduate Institute

Sylvie Briand
Associated Member

Anne Huvos
Associated Member

Stéphanie Dagron
Associated Member
University of Geneva

Rebecca Katz
Associated Member
Georgetown University

Mosoka Fallah
Associated Member
National Public Health Institute of Liberia

Jorge Bermudez
Associated Member
National School of Public Health at Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), Brazil





Policy domains



Brazil, Liberia

Host Institution