Larry Brilliant on pandemics at Commonwealth Club

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Our chairman, Dr. Larry Brilliant, will be speaking May 3 at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on fighting Zika and other pandemics.   From the Club’s site:

How safe are we from an ebola, Zika, H7N9, or MERS outbreak? How can we prevent a bioterrorist attack or lab accidents? Public health expert Brilliant will discuss today’s growing pandemic risks.

Brilliant was the executive director of Google.org and chaired the Presidential Advisory Committee on Bio-Surveillance. He lived in India for more than 10 years working as a United Nations medical officer, where he played a key role in the success World Health Organization smallpox eradication program in South Asia. He also co-founded The Seva Foundation, an international NGO whose programs and grantees have given back sight to more than 3.5 million blind people in more than 20 countries.

Hope you can join us!

 

Skoll World Forum 2016: Fierce Compassion

Next week, a group of us from the Skoll Global Threats Fund will be joining the movers and shakers of the social change world at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England. For three days we will debate, discuss, network, and design to accelerate entrepreneurial solutions for the world’s most pressing problems.

From climate change to ending pandemics, a number of our initiatives at the Skoll Global Threats Fund overlap with some of the activities and topics included in this year’s forum.

The theme for this year is fierce compassion; we believe this notion is integral to all the work we do in tackling global threats.

Check out the Forum Live page at skoll.org/live for videos, photos, and conversations as they happen in real time. The live-streamed coverage begins at 10:00am GMT +1 on April 13, 2016.

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Urgency and Optimism at Skoll-hosted TED Climate Breakfast

The Jeff Skoll Group had the honor of hosting a breakfast event at the recent TED2016 conference in Vancouver, featuring two leaders in the fight against climate change—Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and former US Vice President Al Gore, now chairman of the Climate Reality Project.

Both climate leaders gave main-stage talks at TED. The breakfast, attended by some 90 TED participants was a chance for a more informal exchange.

Christiana Figueres kicked things off with a combination of optimism and urgency. Last year’s Paris climate deal is hugely important, she stressed; it’s the first time that the world has signed on to a common climate goal. We’re finally all rowing in the same direction.

However this is a first, not a final, step. The targets aren’t ambitious enough to get us where we need to be. But the agreement includes provisions to review and ratchet up those targets. The next five years are key, with intermediate steps to strengthen the Paris commitments expected as soon at 2018.

Al Gore followed with a similar mix of urgency and optimism. His arguments are as compelling as ever, supported by a range of data showing the increasingly negative impacts of climate change. But we now have solutions that we didn’t have before. Renewable energy use is growing significantly, in the US, China, and around the world. Continued improvements in technology and falling prices for wind, solar, and battery storage are strong positive signs.

Conversely, fossil fuel exploitation is creating a new pain point beyond carbon pollution: the financial markets. Investors increasingly recognize the risks of significant stranded oil and coal assets, because we can’t burn known reserves and still have a livable planet. Echoing Christiana Figueres, Al Gore reiterated the need to push forward aggressively: we recognize the problem, we have the answers, but whether we have the will to act is still an open question.

The diversity in the room illustrated the value of—and need for—multiple levels of engagement to advance climate action. One participant urged TED, with its unique blend of participants, to consider a dedicated TED Climate track over this next critical five-year period.

The Jeff Skoll Group presence at the breakfast reflected our commitment to this type of multilevel engagement. In attendance were representatives from the Skoll Foundation; Capricorn Investment Group, one of the world’s largest clean tech investors; Participant Media, producer of An Inconvenient Truth; and my group, the Skoll Global Threats Fund, which focuses on building public and political will for climate action.

We too work at multiple levels, all rowing in the same direction. We couldn’t agree more with both the urgency and the optimism expressed by Al Gore and Christiana Figueres. We’re also excited that Al Gore will speak at the upcoming Skoll World Forum. His talk will be live streamed, and we hope you can watch.

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ProMED Experts Share their Insights on Disease Surveillance and EpiCore

Our pandemics team joined thousands of global health experts and researchers to discuss major challenges infectious diseases pose to the world at the International Congress on Infectious Diseases.

Held on March 2-5, in Hyderabad, India, the conference was organized by our grantee partner, the International Society for Infectious Disease.

The organization showcased their program, ProMED-mail, which monitors emerging infectious diseases through a moderated electronic outbreak and event reporting system. This system currently has 80,000 international subscribers reporting on human, animal, and plant diseases from around the world.

Prior to the conference, ProMED-mail convened 28 subject matter experts from 21 countries to discuss how to make best use of EpiCore, a Skoll Global Threats Fund supported global disease outbreak surveillance system that aims to find and report outbreaks faster than traditional disease surveillance methods alone.

As we engaged with experts, we were able to gather insights about their work reporting disease outbreaks in their countries and how the EpiCore system could help advance their work.

EpiCore draws on the knowledge of a global community ranging from human, animal, and environmental health professionals to verify information on disease outbreaks in their geographic regions. It then connects this community with a secure online networking and reporting system.

ProMED-mail harnesses informal sources of information to generate reports of outbreaks. Its subject matter specialists, distributed around the world in 34 countries, use these unconfirmed reports to detect the earliest warning signs of an emerging infectious disease. Often these informal reports are not yet validated or confirmed when ProMED-mail initially reports them. They are posted on ProMED-mail as “requests for information” or RFIs.

To help get to the bottom of these RFIs and find outbreaks faster, EpiCore recruits volunteers around the world with experience in public health, epidemiology or infectious diseases to respond to these RFIs.

Since the launch of the EpiCore system last fall, 112 members from 37 countries have voluntarily participated in the system. EpiCore has already yielded results. Most recently, a “mystery disease” in Nigeria causing fever and serious illness in children was initially suspected to be a hemorrhagic fever. An EpiCore volunteer in the region uncovered the actual cause: measles.

 

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Funding Mobile Technology for Disease Surveillance in Southern Africa

We funded a project for the Southern African Center for Infectious Disease Surveillance (SACIDS), which supports the use of mobile technology for disease surveillance and enhancing community-based disease outbreak detection.

The project is built on the belief that a community level “one health” approach will progressively contribute to disease detection followed by a rapid response at community, national, regional and eventually global levels. The goal is to eliminate or reduce the occurrence or likelihood of a pandemic.

The first edition of the TechnoHealth Surveillance Newsletter can be found at the link here.

You can also view a video about the project at the link here. Please note that only the introduction is in English.

  

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N Square Launches its First Innocentive Challenge

Our grantee, N Square, just launched its first Innocentive Challenge. The challenge seeks solutions that detail how a highly engaged network of influencers in the arts, education, finance, media, science and technology fields can work collaboratively with nuclear disarmament, safety and security subject matter experts. The challenge is based on N Square’s belief that new forms of cross-sector collaboration become possible through the sheer ingenuity of an engaged public. This enables us to innovate our way to a world that is free of nuclear risks.

Think you have a great solution? Learn more about the challenge at the link here: https://www.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/9933708

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New Video on Participatory One Health Initiative in Thailand

The Participatory One Health Disease Detection project (PODD) we’re supporting in Thailand with partners Chiang Mai University and OpenDream is an innovative new way to try to track disease outbreaks in animals to help reduce the change of spread to humans. A new video in the Bangkok Post, in Thai but with English subtitles, provides a nice overview of the initiative.  You can watch it here.

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One Health Participatory Surveillance in Thailand

We’re working with Chiang Mai University and several local partners on a participatory surveillance initiative in Chiang Mai province in Thailand to see if self reporting on both human and animal symptoms can lead to better outcomes in limiting disease outbreaks. The project, PODD CM One Health, has been in the field for over a year now and we’re finding interesting results. The PODD team has created a series of videos, in English, that help explain different aspects of the work. You can watch one below that shows how the PODD system responds to an outbreak signal, and find the rest on PODD’s YouTube page here.

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N Square Talks Nuclear Risks at PopTech

N Square, the collaborative we’re supporting to bring new players and new ideas into the nuclear realm, presented at PopTech’s annual shindig a couple of weeks back. Erika Gregory, N Square’s executive director and Carl Robichaud, who leads the nuclear work at the Carnegie Corporation of New York, one of the collaborative’s funding partners (along with the Hewlett and MacArthur Foundations, the Ploughshares Fund and us), presented from the main stage. Their talk provides good insights into why people should care about the nuclear issue and how N Square is working to reframe how people approach it.  Have a look!

 

N Square Games for Change Challenge on Nuclear Risks

N Square, the initiative we’re supporting along with other leading nuclear funders to bring new ideas and new players into the nuclear security realm, has just launched a gaming challenge with Games for Change.  There’s a $10,000 prize for developing a game that engages and educates people on nuclear risks.  More detail are here.

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