One by one, the viruses have slipped from their hiding places in nature to threaten global populations — SARS, MERS, Zika. In each case, scientists have scrambled to identify the viruses and to develop vaccines or drugs to stop their spread. After each crisis, the assessment has been the same: Countermeasures were not ready in time to help in the containment effort.

“Always too late,” said Jonna Mazet, a scientist at the University of California, Davis, who is keen to break the bugs’ winning streak. “We need to think about something different.” Mazet is a key player in an ambitious endeavor called the Global Virome Project, which has proposed cataloguing nearly all of the unknown viruses lurking in nature around the world. In a nutshell, Mazet and other experts want to search out mystery threats before they find us. READ MORE