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Apply to the next cohort of the Oxford Biosecurity Group by January 19th. If you are a potential researcher or an organisation that wants our researchers to work on a project, please get in touch here. Read on for a retrospective of the first set of projects, including our key learnings and takeaways. 


Oxford Biosecurity Group (OBG) is a team of researchers dedicated to addressing issues related to biosecurity. OBG runs multiple 7-week, remote-first projects, and we partner with relevant organisations in the space to drive progress on pressing issues and to help individuals test their fit, grow their network, and upskill in biosecurity. Researchers work in small teams, led by a project lead, to conduct impactful research culminating in one or more final deliverables. A key way that these projects lead to real-world impact is through partnerships - outputs are shared with key stakeholders, and many projects are run in collaboration with an existing organisation.

The pilot cycle of projects ran between October and December 2023 (see projects we ran in October -December 2023 section). The next cycle will run from 22nd January to 8th March 2024, and applications are open until 19th January. 

What is the theory of change for OBG?

Two main aims of OBG: 

  • Directly tackle biosecurity issues that are not otherwise being worked on through research 
  • Enable people to work in biosecurity in the future, by helping them gain skills and connections

Object-level work - or the ‘somebody should work on this’ gap

There are a range of reasons that specific projects that are high-impact might currently not be worked on, and often this involves capacity or coordination constraints. For example:

  • There are no organisations working on this due to resource limitations, or that resolving the uncertainties about whether something in particular should be invested in is not their highest priority
  • There is uncertainty about if this specific intervention is high impact, and somebody needs to do short term research to determine if it is
  • Experts or people more established in biosecurity having suggestions that ‘somebody should work on’ while not having time to do it themselves

OBG aims to drive progress on these gaps. So far, projects have been selected based on:

  •  The prioritisation of the specific project lead (who has experience in biosecurity and ideas about where research gaps are)
  • Or in collaboration with specific organisations.

Infohazard risks are mitigated by the careful scoping and selection of projects which have a low infohazard risk, including through liaising with organisations and biosecurity experts. Potential researchers also have to go through a selection process.

This arrangement benefits both:

  • Project leads and/or organisations, who have the context to know which projects are high impact but may not have the capacity to work on them
  • Researchers who are able to gain direct experience working on a high impact project and build up a network of people who are already working in the field

Careers - or the ‘on-ramps into biosecurity’ gap

Currently it is often difficult to bridge the gap between learning about biosecurity and doing full-time work in biosecurity. In part, this is due to few opportunities being available for people to complete project work, gain required skills and build up a network within the field.  

OBG provides hands-on, concrete project experience for individuals with some background in biosecurity, or with skills relevant to biosecurity. This allows people to test their fit, upskill, and grow their network, and also attracts new people into the biosecurity space.

Where OBG fits in

To summarise the above, OBG’s route to impact is demonstrated below through some examples of how specific people and organisations might benefit, and how this can lead to positive outcomes:

ProfileWhat OBG DoesShort term outcomesLonger term outcomes

A postgraduate student who wants to work in biosecurity 


Provides projects for potential researchers to work on

Researcher gains experience and network in biosecurity


Researcher submits a report to the organisation

Researcher increases relevant skills and eventually gains a job in biosecurity  


The report ends up informing organisational strategy. More high-impact biosecurity work is done, reducing the chance of future pandemics

An experienced biosecurity researcher who wants to explore a specific technology they’re excited about

Enables biosecurity researcher to become a project lead and get a team to work on a specific issue




Allows biosecurity researcher to suggest potential project ideas, which may in the future become projects for other project leads and teams to work on

Their OBG team produces a report suggesting the technology is promising, and further research should be done into it


Biosecurity researcher can gain/improve management experience


An individual on the OBG team decides to research the technology as part of their degree. More high-impact biosecurity work is done, reducing the chance of future pandemics
A non-profit organisation conducting research into biosecurity policy

Scopes out projects in collaboration with organisation and agrees outputs





Gets a group of researchers to work on this project, including a project lead

Organisation gets project output, which may then feed into future organisational strategy


Organisation expands its pool of potential skilled individuals to hire

The organisation decides to conduct a deeper exploration into the topic matter, and ends up hiring skilled members of the OBG team. More high-impact biosecurity work is done, reducing the chance of future pandemics




Uncertainties around theory of change

A key uncertainty around the theory of change is about how to trade off between producing high impact work and advancing people’s careers. Evaluation of this will be used to determine the expected impact of the approach of OBG, and what this means for future strategy. A more detailed write-up is in progress, and this will be shared with experts in biosecurity and career advice for their input and then posted on the EA forum as a separate post. 

Projects we ran October - December 2023

This section gives an overview of the projects run in the first round, and some examples of project outputs. More project outputs will be added to the OBG website in the future. 

Towards a UK Pathogen-Agnostic Surveillance Architecture

Project lead: Conrad Kunadu

Collaborations/rationale behind project: After his time as an ERA Biosecurity Fellow, Conrad wanted to explore community-based approaches to sentinel surveillance, given he felt it was a neglected model with reasons to potentially be excited about it in the long run. This project was run to answer some foundational questions with respect to early detection that would help inform how important this issue was. Other researchers on the team had similar foundational questions on the status quo and viability of approaches to early detection.

Main outcomes: This was a broad project with no singular deliverable. However, researcher insights here directly motivated a much more focused project running in the upcoming OBG cycle on early detection cost-effectiveness, particularly with respect to how sufficient wastewater surveillance could be and whether it is still worth exploring alternate approaches.

Link to publicly available output (if available): N/A

Researching Funding Mechanisms for Biosecurity Initiatives

Project lead: Conrad Kunadu

Collaborations/rationale behind project: This project was run in collaboration with Technologies for Pandemic Defense (TPD), who were at the time exploring a range of possible approaches to fund biosecurity projects. Whilst the project scope was broad, there was a particular focus on exploring the viability of getting institutional investors to pay for technologies such as pandemic-ready personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Main outcomes: Deliverables here were directly shared with TPD and may contribute towards further scoping work on funding mechanisms for biosecurity in the future. However, due to a shift in priorities, TPD’s work on this has been paused.

Link to publicly available output (if available): N/A

Researching Bottlenecks to the Implementation of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation

Project lead: Lin Bowker-Lonnecker

Collaborations/rationale behind project: Germicidal ultraviolet (otherwise known as ultraviolet germicidal irradiation) involves using ultraviolet light to disinfect air and surfaces to reduce the spread of pathogens. The project lead has a particular interest in getting engineering technologies that reduce the chance of future pandemics being implemented, with the aim of sharing the output with key stakeholders working on far-UVC research and/or advocacy, and potentially feeding into future advocacy work.

Main outcomes: Report output focusing specifically on material degradation from far-UVC. This area was prioritised due to its importance to whether far-UVC will be implemented large-scale, the background of the researchers (engineering and materials science) and the lack of summary research available for this. Some other higher level work was done, such as into regulatory aspects in the UK, but this researched to less depth in part due to some researchers dropping out and in part due to prioritisation and focus necessary within a short project period. 

Link to publicly available output: N/A

Antimicrobial Resistance Modeling

Project lead: Sofya Lebedeva

Collaborations/rationale behind project: This project was run under the guidance of Akhil Bansal. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when a bacteria, virus, fungus or parasite develops the ability to survive exposure to a treatment (i.e., an antimicrobial agent) that was previously effective in treating the infection it causes. AMR is a significant and growing global public health issue; the most recent global reports estimate that 1.27 million deaths (95% CI 0.911-1.71 million) and 47 million DALYs (95% CI 35.0-63.4 million) can be attributed to AMR. The goal of this project was to make progress towards determining the contextual and geographical differences in the drivers of AMR.

Main outcomes: Deliverables were shared directly with Akhil Bansal & this project is now continuing on in 2024 and looking for additional researchers. Further directions are outlined in the final presentation. 

Link to publicly available output (if available): Final presentation

Antimicrobial Resistance Stakeholder Mapping

Project lead: Sofya Lebedeva

Collaborations/rationale behind project: This project was done in collaboration with ARMoR. The global threat of antimicrobial resistance has been explained above. This project helped the non-profit to determine the key geographic locations in which to conduct their advocacy. 

Main outcomes: Final deliverable was used by the organisation in their decision making regarding the geographic selection of their advocacy targets.  

Link to publicly available output (if available): Final presentation

Research into Developing Rapid Point-of-Care Tests for Bacterial Infections

Project lead: Sofya Lebedeva

Collaborations/rationale behind project: This project was run under the guidance of Akhil Bansal. The global threat of antimicrobial resistance has been explained above. The goal of this project was to scope the possibility of a rapid point-of-care test (POCT) for bacterial infections. 

Main outcomes: A final deliverable outlining the current state of the research for POCT was achieved and presented to Akhil Bansal. 

Link to publicly available output (if available): N/A

Key Learnings & Takeaways from 2023

This section summarises our main takeaways from the initial pilot round of projects.

Project Work

The projects were seven weeks long, and had several main deliverables: a midpoint presentation, a final presentation and a final report. The project leads were responsible for organising their own projects and setting their own deliverables.

Thoughts on what was done:

  • Projects that had a clear week-by-week plan and defined goals going in tended to go better than those that were more open-ended. For example, while the projects were narrowed down during the project period, the ‘Researching Bottlenecks to the Implementation of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation’ and the ‘Researching Funding Mechanisms for Biosecurity Initiatives’ project briefs should have been narrower to begin with.
  • For some projects people remained engaged all the way through, for others there were some dropouts. Some of this was due to people’s personal circumstances changing (e.g. people dropping out after finding a full-time role), but we found that a clear output/path to impact and working with an org helped. Potential funding for one specific project did not make as much difference as expected. More projects would need to be done to evaluate this further.  
  • Engagement with full-time biosecurity researchers (for example at the final presentation) seemed valuable
  • Not all projects worked towards a deliverable. Whilst this afforded more flexibility for researchers, this meant in some cases researchers within the same team had very little interaction with each other.

What to change for next time:

  • Week-by-week project plan: When scoping projects out, both a project brief and a more detailed project plan will be created. The project plan includes a week-by-week summary of what researchers should be working on in the project.
  • Specific projects: Projects will be defined in a more narrow way, so researchers can work on the problem at greater depth. 
  • Clear deliverables: Projects will work towards a deliverable by default, such as a short report, article, or working paper.

Sourcing Projects

The project leads, who all have experience in the biosecurity space, came up with their own projects based on their experiences and research areas, and what they thought would have a high impact based on this. Some of these projects were in collaboration with other organisations. 

Thoughts on what was done:

  • Projects with other organisations seemed more valuable than project lead discretionary choice and may lead to more object-level progress on issues. This led us to strongly update that it was more effective to work with organisations in the space and run projects based on their needs
  • The projects were in high-impact areas, the project leads have experience in the space, and external biosecurity experts were happy to give input and feedback. However, there was no systematic evaluation of potential projects or comparison between potential projects for which one would be the highest impact. 

What to change for next time:

  • Collaborations: There will be a greater focus on collaborations with existing organisations. All of the projects in January-March 2024 will be in collaboration with another organisation.
  • Projects for future cycles: Now that the pilot cycle of projects has successfully been completed, projects will be planned out further in advance. This includes building up relationships with existing organisations and speaking to experts about what high-impact projects they think should be done if there is more capacity. This could involve creating a longlist of projects and then evaluating them. 


The Project Leads had a lot of control over the recruitment, projects and final deliverables. 

The main organisation and communication channels were a Slack workspace, with shared channels but also a private channel for each specific project; a Google Drive folder for project files; and a Notion page for task management, project planning and the website. 

Thoughts on what was done:

  • The projects being handled primarily and autonomously worked well with the cofounders being the three main project leads, however more standardisation is needed when there are additional project leads
  • Slack mostly worked well as the main communication tool, although sometimes people took a while to have the notifications settings set up correctly
  • Operations went well for what was needed for the initial projects, however when expanding more operations processes would be put in place.

What to change for next time:

  • Point person for operations: One person (Conrad) is taking on running operations for OBG, which will enable greater standardisation and efficiency improvements
  • Operational processes: Various operational processes have been updated and improved based on experiences last cohort, to make things easier and more efficient for new projects and project leads
  • Project Lead Guide: a project lead guide has been created for project leads, summarising key responsibilities including scoping and running projects, processing applications, and the operations systems.


Project leads were responsible for assessing applications to their projects. The application process involved a short 15-30 minute form, followed by a 30-minute interview with the project lead to assess project fit. Applications were done via Google Forms, with the results of the form being input into a Google sheet, sorted and allocated.

Thoughts on what was done:

  • Generally applications went well, and all of the projects were filled up with good applicants
  • Application periods were very short, and some of the later interviews meant a slight delay in the project start for some people. 
  • Applications handled by the project lead of the applicant’s preferred project may not be the best system if a project is consistently somebody’s *second* preferred project. Some projects also had more interest than others. 

What to change for next time:

  • Managing applications: Application form and management will be moved to Airtable as it is better suited to how we want to manage the applications
  • Application standardisation: More guidance given to project leads about processing applications, including a suggestion about how to structure the interview. 
  • Potential longer-term changes: The application form and process will continue to be iterated, and potentially application forms will be tailored slightly for each project.

Projects for January - March 2024

We will be running seven projects in January-March 2024. A summary of the projects is given on this page. Applications close on 19th January - apply here

  • Translating Time-to-Detection into QALYs and DALYs for Early Detection Cost-Effectiveness
  • Antimicrobial Resistance Modeling 
  • G7/20 AMR Compliance Assessment
  • Improving Access to Antimicrobials in LMICs
  • Analysis of Gaps and Opportunities for Improved Governance in High-Containment Laboratories in African Region
  • Towards a synthetic DNA regulation policy in Switzerland and the EU
  • Policy Changes Required to Improve Respirator Stockpiles

How can I get involved?

Apply Now

We are looking for researchers to apply for our next cohort of projects that will take place between 22nd January and 8th March 2024. Applications close on 19th January 2024 - apply here

Researchers will join a small team of 2-5 people led by a project lead, to work on a concrete, scoped, biosecurity project. Your exact responsibilities will depend on the nature of the project and your level of expertise. However, we prefer people who are motivated and are able to work independently. Find out more on our website

You can also express your interest in becoming a project lead for a future cohort. If this is something you are interested in, please complete this form. Or, if you are also interested in being a researcher, you can fill in the application form and respond ‘yes’ to the question of ‘Are you interested in being a Project Lead’.

Collaborate With Us

We are looking for collaborators to scope out high-impact, concrete projects that can benefit both you and the researchers working on the project. 

If you are interested in collaborating with us, please fill in this form or contact us on contact@oxfordbiosecuritygroup.com.

Fund Us

OBG is looking for funding to scale up, build up additional partnerships, evaluate potential projects in more detail and run more projects. Please contact us at contact@oxfordbiosecuritygroup.com if this is something you’re interested in.

Contact Us

Thoughts? Comments? Feedback? If you wish to contact us directly, please email us on contact@oxfordbiosecuritygroup.com.
















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