Researching Next-Gen PPE For Biohazards

TL;DR We are performing a feasibility study to establish requirements and a theory of change for novel ‘Super PPE’. Assuming this concludes positively we will develop Super PPE to reduce GCBR risk.

What is the context?

Global Catastrophic Risks (GCRs) are risks that threaten humanity on a worldwide scale. With new technologies developing at an unprecedented rate, humanity is posing more and more of a real and concerning threat to itself.

Global Catastrophic Biological Risks (GCBRs) are a subset of GCRs, which present a substantial and well documented danger to humanity - both in an existential form, and as ‘suffering risks’ (s-risks) from lesser but still greatly damaging pandemics or other biological events [1].

Many data collection, infrastructural, logistical, and pharmaceutical methods are in development to reduce catastrophic biorisk [2] [3] [4] [5]. However, there is limited development work occurring for hardware in the space, and a concerning lack of development of novel and truly next generation Biohazard Personal Protective Equipment.

In any potentially catastrophic biological event that breaches initial containment efforts, we have extremely high confidence that widespread use of high protection level PPE, perhaps in the form of a next-gen Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) or a similar but greatly improved version of positive pressure BSL4 suits, would be required for recovery and continuation of civilisation.

Unfortunately, existing PPE of an appropriate protection level is not practical for widespread use during a catastrophic event. For example, a quick list of some major issues with suits such as BSL4 suits and L5 Tychem suits:

The development of ‘Super PPE’ has been flagged by a number of organisations as an important biosecurity development. One example is the Apollo program for biodefence, which has identified next-generation PPE as a technology priority for the next decade.

This is a sorely overdue development that could see a huge leap in technology/equipment quality, simply due to the fact that designs haven’t significantly changed since 1979.

We are aware of some efforts that have been made to improve on full body biohazard PPE, particularly relating to and following the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak. Whilst these improvements are a brilliant start, there is still a long way to go until we reach global-catastrophe-ready suits. 

What are we doing?

Amodo design is performing a comprehensive feasibility and requirements study in order to make substantial progress on Super PPE. The study has the following  scope:

  • Evaluate the use cases for PPE during GCBR events
  • Concretely and quantitatively establish shortcomings of existing PPE
  • Establish product requirements to achieve different levels of threat protection
  • Run cost estimates for PPE improvement and evaluate for resource effectiveness to decide target threat protection levels
  • Develop detailed PPE requirements for the selected threat level

What will come next?

Following the initial feasibility study, we will move on to concept ideation, mathematical modelling and cost estimates, before beginning to prototype and construct POC subsystems of the next generation of Bio PPE.