NASEM: Roadmap for Implementing Biosecurity and Biodefense Policy in the United States

By GMU Biodefense graduate student, Carlos Alvarado

On August 21st the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine hosted Dr. Kavita Berger of Gryphon Scientific and Dr. Diane DiEuliis of National Defense University. The event focused on discussing the Roadmap for Implementing Biosecurity and Biodefense Policy in the United States.

In the opening slides, Dr. Berger explained that this review of the roadmap would only be focused on the United States policies and not outside sources. Many countries have their own polices as she explained; however, the goal of this project was to investigate only U.S. polices. She began by giving a brief overview of the actual roadmap, which is for implementing biosecurity and biodefense policy to influence the capabilities and advances in technology and science while minimizing security threats. A key point in these slides were to remember that as technology and science advances, so do the potential threats. Dr. Berger used examples of research, development, institutions, applications, and countries as the driving factors of influencing advances on science and technology. Dr. Berger illustrated how these factors are constantly changing and shifting the biotechnology landscape. An example that was used is how engineering, biology, chemistry, and even health and safety are a wide variety of disciplines that are growing within the biotechnology realm and that it is no longer just a single discipline of biology. The take away from this information was with all these factors there must be regulation to ensure potential threats are not overlooked or ignored but at the same to furthering our research.  

The next portion of the slides Dr. Berger focused on was the actual research of the roadmap. This included many slides that included highly informative graphs, charts and tables. The first graph was the first step in figuring out how to create a roadmap for these polices. The graph illustrated how polices fell into two separate categories- Biosecurity and Biodefense. Dr. Euliis mentioned the two divisions showed clear policies that fell in each division, for example Biological Select Agents in Toxins policies fell under Biosecurity where as Response fell in the Biodefense division. After separating the polices into these two divisions the data illustrated that Biodefense and Biosecurity policy is a reactionary system. This was illustrated in a chart that had a timeline of events with the corresponding investments and policies implemented. The research then followed three categories which were policy analysis, which focused on the current landscape, how it was related to mapping polices, how these polices are implemented and case studies. The second category of research was creating evaluation metrics that looked at what was successful, which was determined by scholarly writings, existing policies and applied polices. The last category was the opportunity costs of how to asses these polices.

The presentation then shifted to looking directly at these three categories. In the first category the current landscape was very similar to the charts of realizing polices are broken up into two groups biodefense and biosecurity. They used existing polices and case studies to see which policy ended where. The evaluation metrics portion showed there are gaps in U.S. policy and Biodefense policy. These gaps fall in infrastructure, capability and limitations in scope and relevance. The opportunity costs basically illustrated how some categories within the divisions of biodefense and biosecurity polices do not get as much investment as others. An example was that prevention will receive higher investments, but forensics and recovery will receive low investments. These investments are the drivers of continuing research and development of biotechnology however when the costs are significantly high and the regulations and polices are so grand most projects are pulled or funded overseas.

The conclusion of the presentation reiterated the fact that current polices are broken into two groups- Biodefense and Biosecurity. There are some polices connecting biodefense and biosecurity; however, there are still many gaps. These gaps cause issues in regulations of advances in biotechnology that have potential for dangerous consequences. An example was given by Dr. Euliis of how horsepox was recreated due to outside funding. No policy was in place to say this could not be done due to the outside investment. This roadmap will help secure advances in technology and science while reducing threats such as the horsepox experiment

The full report is posted on http://www.gryphonscientific.com/biosecurity-policy/

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