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Experts Warn We Aren’t Prepared for a Global Health Crisis: Brainstorm Health

September 18, 2019, 9:26 PM UTC

Hello and happy hump day, readers.

What does a worst case scenario look like in public health? If we went the Hollywood route, you could envision all sorts of disasters. A lone patient spreading a deadly bug via international travel; a contamination in the food supply; heck, maybe just the emergence of a superbug resistant to existing treatments (a potential $100 trillion risk by some accounts).

The thing is, any sort of pandemic could be catastrophic – and the world simply isn’t prepared to deal with such an outbreak, according to a first-of-its-kind report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB). In fact, as many as 80 million people could die in an outbreak within 36 hours, the authors say, if an airborne pathogen were to make its way around the globe.

The GPMB was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank to investigate these exact kinds of issues. And the initial prognosis is grim (the report itself is frighteningly titled, ‘A World At Risk’).

Here’s just a snippet of what the group had to say: “The central finding of the report is that the world needs to proactively establish the systems needed to detect and control potential disease outbreaks. These acts of preparedness are a global public good that must meaningfully engage communities, from the local to the international, in preparedness, detection, response and recovery.”

The report outlines the many failures of international governments, from lackluster public health systems to lapses in communication to a dearth of drug and vaccine development, to prepare for a major pandemic. (The issue is serious enough that the World Bank created the first-ever global insurance market for pandemics back in 2016.)

But GPMB also offers some practical solutions. “Investing in health emergency preparedness will improve health outcomes, build community trust and reduce poverty, thereby also contributing to efforts to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” the authors wrote.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee, @the_sy_guy, sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Google officially snatches up DeepMind health team. The Alphabet-affiliated artificial intelligence outfit DeepMind is, well, officially a part of Google as of today. The firm's health-focused team is being wrapped up into Google Health. "Today, with our healthcare partners, the team is excited to officially join the Google Health family. Under the leadership of Dr. David Feinberg, and alongside other teams at Google, we’ll now be able to tap into global expertise in areas like app development, data security, cloud storage and user-centered design to build products that support care teams and improve patient outcomes," said Google in a statement. DeepMind is working on a plethora of health-based machine learning and AI technologies, including those that could potentially identify symptoms earlier than your regular flesh-and-blood physician. (9To5Google)

INDICATIONS

Alexion CFO abruptly heads for the exits. Shares of biotech Alexion dipped 4.5% in Wednesday trading after the company announced its chief financial officer, Paul Clancy, would be leaving his post. The unexpected departure is raising questions among the investor class, although Clancy's exact motivations are unclear (for now, it doesn't seem that he's headed straight to another company). Alexion is best known for its rare disease treatment Soliris. (Barron's)

THE BIG PICTURE

India, China jump on the anti-vaping train. This week, China unexpectedly put the kibosh on Juul sales (readers know all about the brouhaha over e-cigs and the vaping industry in the U.S.). Now, India is also banning sales of e-cigarettes over concerns of a youth vaping epidemic and possible health consequences. That's a serious one-two gut punch to the industry, which is now effectively being shunned (or, at the very least, significantly curtailed) by some of the world's largest markets. (Reuters)

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