What is the threat of biorisk to your company, and how can PHC Global help?

If you’re responsible for managing  your company’s risk, you know how a global pandemic can impact your operations from top to bottom. But what about other forms of biorisk – how much of a threat do they pose to your business? And now that the COVID-19 emergency is over, how much risk could another global pandemic spell for you?

What is a biorisk?

Biorisks fall into several broad categories, but they all involve living organisms that can negatively impact your employees, your business continuity and your bottom line. We think about biorisks in four large categories:

  • Infectious diseases such as winter respiratory viruses, Ebola viruses and stomach flu
  • Environmental events such as heat waves, air quality problems and flooding
  • Infrastructure events such as electrical grid outages and hospital evacuations
  • Geopolitical events such as refugee movement and civil unrest

Each of these biorisk categories can create unhealthy environments that allow diseases to grow and pose significant risk to humans.

What is Biorisk

The everyday threat of known illnesses

One biorisk that’s often overlooked by risk officers is the threat of known illnesses. Flus, colds and Strep throat are an ever-present problem, costing American businesses millions of dollars in sick days and lost productivity each year. In recent years, outbreaks of known illnesses such as measles, mumps and whooping cough have also increased. Due to the growing anti-vaccination movement in the US, previously rare illnesses, particularly childhood illnesses, have made a resurgence.

Business leaders, however, can certainly take steps to minimize the impact of these threats. These may include sanitation, vaccination policies, sick day policies and workplace educational campaigns.

The constant potential for novel diseases

We also face the risk of emerging diseases that can pose new biorisks. Dr. Anthony Fauci has cited zoonotic diseases (those spread from animals to humans) as a leading type of novel biorisk. However, new diseases can also emerge via environmental contamination (unintentional or intentional), human travel, healthcare disparities, and even technological advancements.

COVID-19 is perhaps the most widely known novel disease today. However, recent decades have seen the rise of around 40 new diseases, many of them zoonotic. This trend is only expected to increase in years to come. When it comes to assessing the likely impact of an emerging disease, relying on official news briefings is not enough. 

Biorisks driven by climate change

The emergence of novel diseases is exacerbated by climate change. Experts anticipate that due to climate changes, many diseases both new and old will see higher rates of infection and outbreaks. Researchers cite many reasons for this increase, including:

  • More highly adaptable pathogens
  • Demographic and population shifts that increase transmission rates
  • Increasing ranges for mosquitoes and other vectors
  • The rise of climate-related synergists (such as higher temperatures and rainfall) that promote the spread of disease

Climate change is poised to profoundly alter life on earth as we know it in the years and decades to come.

Natural disasters and their biological implications

Tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes and wildfires have always threatened our world, but climate change has made them more prevalent and severe – and that trend will only worsen over time. When natural disasters strike, they leave chaos in their wake. Homes are destroyed, families are torn apart, and daily life is severely disrupted. Unfortunately, natural disasters often bring about a spike in infectious disease outbreaks, too. A 2012 article explored the strong connection between these disasters and the spread of diseases such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Respiratory infections
  • Measles
  • Hepatitis
  • Meningitis

The researchers also explored natural disasters’ connection to several other diseases. Ultimately, they advised that early risk management and control measures are the best way to minimize the impact of post-disaster outbreaks.

The threat of biological warfare and bad actors

Should your business really be concerned about the potential for biological warfare or biological terrorism? The answer is yes. Although the current likelihood of a bioterrorism event or bioattack is low, these would have far-reaching consequences that would profoundly impact your enterprise. Preparedness for any event is the only way to reduce risk. 

Many experts expect anthrax as the most likely culprit of the next bioterrorism attack, and other possibilities include smallpox, the plague, and cholera. However, these experts also warn about the possible rise of bioterrorism using gene editing technology in years to come. 

PHC Global Threat Tracker to help manage biorisk

How the PHC Global Threat Tracker helps you manage biorisks

You can’t eliminate the threat of biorisks to your business. However, the PHC Global Threat Tracker can help you with early warning and time to make adjustments to your business. You can track a single location – or all of them. Through the Pharos system, you will know when threat levels change and what strategies our experts recommend. 

Watch a demo to learn more about PHC Global and the PHC Pharos Platform.

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Dave Komendat retired as the Vice President and Chief Security Officer for The Boeing Company, a role he held for 14 years of his 36 years within the security profession. Komendat was responsible for the company’s global security and fire protection policy and procedures, site security, executive protection, supply chain and aviation security, structural and aircraft fire protection, government and proprietary information security, classified cyber security, strategic intelligence, international security, business continuity and disaster preparedness, Global Security Operations Center, and security background investigations.


Komendat was also the lead Boeing interface for both national and international security policy engagement with numerous government and industry advisory groups. He represented Boeing as past co-chairman and current board member on the Domestic Security Alliance Council, past President of The International Security Management Association and served as a member of the Threats and Information Committee for the Overseas Security Advisory Council.  


Komendat is the founder and President of DSKomendat Risk Management Services, he also serves on several company advisory boards and holds board leadership roles with several non-profit organizations whose missions are to protect people globally, including Hostage U.S. and The International Security Foundation. Dave is also a Strategic Engagement Advisor for the Office of Private Sector within the FBI. In 2018, Dave was awarded the Director’s Award for Exceptional Public Service by FBI Director Christopher Wray.


Komendat graduated from California State University at Long Beach and also attended and completed the executive development program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Dr. Carter Mecher serves as the Medical Advisor for the Public Health Company. 


Prior to joining PHC, Carter served as a Senior Medical Advisor for the Office of Public Health in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In this position, Dr. Mecher played a key role in the COVID-19 outbreak response. 


From 2005 to 2011, he served as the Director of Medical Preparedness Policy at the White House Homeland Security Council and National Security Staff. He was a principal author of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan. In this capacity, he helped set policy and devise strategies to mitigate the consequences of a pandemic and promote pandemic preparedness. 


Before serving at the White House, Dr. Mecher was the Chief Medical Officer for the Southeast VA Network in Atlanta from 1996 to 2005. In this role he oversaw the healthcare delivery for veterans in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. 


Dr. Mecher is a co-author of Lessons from the COVID War, an in-depth examination of the U.S. response to the pandemic. In addition, he is featured in Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition.


Dr. Mecher received his medical degree from Chicago Medical School and completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in critical care medicine at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center.

Dr. Joe DeRisi is a Scientific Advisor to PHC. He is one of the early pioneers of DNA microarray technology and whole genome expression profiling; he is nationally recognized in the field of genomic epidemiology for designing a first-of-its-kind initiative for COVID-19. Joe currently serves as Co-President of Chan Zuckerberg BioHub and is a professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at University of California, San Francisco. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Stanford University.

Dr. Sumiko Mekaru is the Vice President of Research and Innovation at The Public Health Company. Dr. Mekaru is an epidemiologist operating at the intersection of traditional epidemiology and technology and leading cross-disciplinary teams to solve challenges in public health. Prior to joining PHC, Dr. Mekaru was a Life Sciences Strategy, Policy, and Operations Expert at Booz Allen Hamilton where she recently led the development of COVID-19 forecasting models for disease transmission, resource utilization, and critical events for the Department of Defense. Dr. Mekaru has also led health technology teams at Epidemico and Boston Children’s Hospital, creating innovative health surveillance tools. She has published extensively on infectious disease outbreak monitoring, modeling, and surveillance. Dr. Mekaru holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University and a PhD in epidemiology from Boston University.

Justin McIntosh is an experienced professional with 10+ years in management and 8+ years in software engineering. Currently, he is the Vice President of Operations at The Public Health Company. His journey began in college when he co-founded Safe Site, a utility services company, which expanded to operations in three states with over 300 employees. After a successful exit, he founded Docusite, a construction risk management application, diving into software engineering. Despite challenges with Docusite, Justin’s passion for technology led him to various roles before landing at The Public Health Company.


In his current role, Justin is tackling the challenging task of improving operations in a remote environment. He is dedicated to his role and is always open to sharing experiences and insights. He is committed to nurturing effective teams, improving operations, and shaping innovative solutions. His focus is on creating a positive, growth-oriented environment and mentoring emerging leaders, reflecting his commitment to collective success.

Lori Sutton is the Vice President of Marketing at The Public Health Company. She is a strategic marketing visionary and global brand leader with 20+ years of progressive experience in B2B/B2C SaaS software marketing in large enterprise and SMB markets. She has expertise in leading strategy development, overhauling brands, launching products and driving growth in target verticals. Prior to joining PHC, Lori was the Vice President of Marketing and Growth at SMS-Magic, where she led the global GTM strategy, orchestrated a brand overhaul, developed new messaging and positioning and launched revenue generating campaigns. Lori held marketing and management roles at Model N, Bullet Point Network, Saba and other SaaS software companies where she focused on marketing strategy, business objectives and analytics to drive revenue.

Lori holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, an Executive Education in Corporate Strategy at Harvard Business School and continues coursework at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Craig Katsuyama is the Vice President of Administrative Services at PHC. He brings extensive experience building companies from the ground up and was instrumental to the launch of IEX Group in 2012, which challenged the status quo of financial markets and created an entirely new stock exchange that works for all investors. Craig spent the last eight years at IEX where he built and oversaw the accounting and finance teams before transitioning to help establish IEX’s Event Stream business, a data messaging platform that applies IEX’s core technology to areas outside of finance. Craig graduated from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Economics.

Dr. David Fisk is the Chief Medical Officer at The Public Health Company. Prior to joining PHC, Dr. Fisk served as an Infectious Disease Specialist at Sansum Clinic.  He serves as the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Cottage Health, leading the infection control team at Cottage, working with physicians and hospital leaders on the COVID Incident Command Center to ensure the highest level of preparation and care for patients. In early March 2020, before the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Santa Barbara County, Dr. Fisk advised that the virus was already spreading locally before community members were observing symptoms.


Dr. Fisk completed his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his Internal Medicine residency and Infectious Diseases fellowship at University of Michigan Medical Center. He is board certified in Infectious Diseases and a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Chris Latko is the Chief Technology Officer at PHC. He joined as a Principal Software Architect where he played a key role in building out the platform. He has over 25 years experience in the technology sector holding positions at companies he started, Fortune 500 companies, and a multitude of startups both in the United States and Japan. He has spent the last decade designing, refining, and reimplementing architectures for hypergrowth startups such as Boxfish, Paxata (acquired by DataRobot), Banjo, and Globality. Chris earned two patents for designing a streaming data ingestion/data normalization platform.

Kendall Burman serves as PHC’s General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining PHC, Burman held leadership roles at Alloy, a data and technology start-up for the progressive political market. Burman previously served as the Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives at the Department of Commerce and as Associate White House Counsel and Special Assistant to the President in the Obama Administration. She was also a counsel in the cybersecurity and data privacy practice at Mayer Brown and served as Chief Staff Counsel for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.


Burman is a graduate of Bowdoin College and received her J.D. from the University of Chicago where she was an editor of the law review. She was also was a fellow at both the New America Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Dr. Charity Dean is the CEO, Founder and Chairman of The Public Health Company, a venture-backed Silicon Valley technology startup. 


In August 2020 Dr. Dean founded PHC, envisioning a commercial-grade global biosecurity platform to empower enterprises to manage biorisk at scale. Dr. Dean’s obsession with building a new solution was born out of 24 years in public health and the recognition that Silicon Valley innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning could birth this entirely new capability. Two years later PHC PharosTM is a game-changer for numerous businesses providing real-time, dynamic risk management across their global footprint and assets. 


Dr. Dean founded PHC having served as the Assistant Director for the California Department of Public Health where she was part of the executive team under Governor Newsom running the COVID-19 pandemic response. She co-founded and co-chaired California’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force and under her leadership, California went from ranking last in the nation for testing to first in three months. In 2019, Dr. Dean served as Acting State Public Health Officer overseeing 4,300 staff with an annual operating budget of $3.5 billion. 


Before her move to statewide office, she served as the Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County and oversaw a myriad of disease outbreaks and biological threats; she also served as attending physician for TB, HIV, and homeless medicine at the Santa Barbara Health Care Centers. 


Dr. Dean was awarded Physician of the Year in 2018 by the Central Coast Medical Association and honored as one of the Women of the Year by the California State Legislature.


Dr. Dean is a co-author of Lessons from the COVID War. Her work during the pandemic is the focus of Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition. Dr. Dean has shared her insights about the danger of biological threats and the changes we must make before the next crisis in a number of interviews and podcasts.


Dr. Dean holds a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Tulane University and a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Oregon State University.

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