Event Review: Editing Biosecurity, Needs and Strategies for Governing Genome Editing

By Justin Hurt, GMU Biodefense

On December 3rd, 2018, the New America policy study organization hosted an event entitled “Biosecurity in the Age of Genome Editing,” a panel discussion moderated by Daniel Rothenberg of Arizona State University. The discussion centered around the findings of the recently released study, Editing Biosecurity, Needs and Strategies for Governing Genome Editing, and included authors Jesse Kirkpatrick of Arizona State University, Greg Koblentz and Edward Perello, both from George Mason University, and Megan Palmer and David Relman, both from Stanford University. Each author spoke about specific portions of the study, a two-year project designed to ascertain the inherent risks and security challenges regarding the rapidly developing field of genome editing, which includes such technologies as the highly promising but potentially risky CRISPR gene editing technique. Continue reading “Event Review: Editing Biosecurity, Needs and Strategies for Governing Genome Editing”

Reflections on the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Global Health Security Agenda

On October 6-8, 2018, the 5h Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial Meeting was held in Bali, Indonesia. This summit aimed “to review the work done to date by GHSA, successes and challenges encountered, and to chart the way forward. Under the theme ‘Advancing Global Partnerships’, the meeting will further elaborate on the existing and possible partnerships at the global and regional levels, as well as a broader engagement of the non-governmental stakeholders in the whole process of our work.” The GHSA is growing with partnership including 64 nations, international organizations, and non-governmental stakeholders.

In partnership with Next Generation Global Health Security Network, GMU’s Schar School Biodefense graduate program sponsored two student fellowships to attend through the George Mason Global Health Security Student Ambassador program. These two students, Annette Prieto and Saskia Popescu, represented GMU Biodefense and have provided a report on their experiences in conjunction with NextGen’s coordinator, Jamechia D. Hoyle, and other NextGen representatives. This is the second year for the George Mason Global Health Security Student Ambassador program and you can read the recap of last year’s summit in Uganda here.

We’re pleased to provide you with reflections from these three days focused on the past, present, and future of the GHSA. Below you’ll find brief sections of and links to the reflections from Dr. Hoyle, and our student ambassadors. You can also access the entire page here (also available in the Word doc here), which includes all reflections from Dr. Hoyle, the student ambassadors, and members of the Next Generation Global Health Security Network.

Next Generation Global Health Security Network Coordinator, Jamechia D. Hoyle
“The 3-day event included a variety of high-level updates and more intimate discussions in side events on next steps under the newly-launched GHSA 2024. Under the GHSA 2024 Framework, the initiative will move toward a more structured approach with “clear governance, collaboration structures and processes, increased engagement of the broader GHSA community, tracking and measurement of progress and enhanced accountability for delivery on commitments”. With over 100 countries expected to complete an external evaluation of health security capacity under this new framework, GHSA members and relevant partners remain committed to undergo planning and resource mobilization to address gaps. However, as repeatedly discussed during the Ministerial Meeting, a key issue remains: financing health security.” Continue reading…

George Mason Global Health Security Student Ambassadors

Saskia Popescu, Biodefense Doctoral Candidate
“While the DRC battles an outbreak of Ebola virus disease and influenza hits the Northern Hemisphere, one might think that antimicrobial resistance was an afterthought at this meeting. The GHSA and those invested in its future are used to putting out fires and still battling the slow burning threats, like antimicrobial resistance, which means that this topic was a frequent point of discussion. Throughout the presentations and sessions, the topic of antimicrobial resistance was frequently brought up, especially in the context of One Health. In the U.S. alone, 23,000 people die a year as a result of resistance infections. The latest WHO reportsreveal a global issue in which the most common infections are increasingly becoming drug resistant. From the agricultural sector to healthcare and the environment, combatting antimicrobial resistance is extremely challenging and many at the meeting vocalized their concerns with such a chimeric dilemma.” Continue Reading..

Annette Prieto, Biodefense MS Candidate
“Although the theme for the 5th Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial Meeting was “Advancing Global Partnerships,” session 3 was the first session that offered insight into the many ways global partnerships can and should be approached for the GHSA 2024. The panel was composed of diverse leaders from different sectors and countries, highlighting the importance of using a multi-sectoral method to achieve the overarching targets of GHSA 2024. The panel discussed a wide range of topics. The first panelist, Dr. Nick Adkin, Deputy Director of Global Health Security, Department of Health and Social Care, United Kingdom, started the session with a specific but enormous problem to global health security: antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR affects not only public health, but also trade and food safety.” Continue reading..

 

GMU Biodefense Student Ambassador GHSA Reflection – Annette Prieto

Annette Prieto, M.S. Biodefense Candidate Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University Vice President, Next Generation Global Health Security Network Mason Chapter – USA

Although the theme for the 5th Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial Meeting was “Advancing Global Partnerships,” session 3 was the first session that offered insight into the many ways global partnerships can and should be approached for the GHSA 2024. The panel was composed of diverse leaders from different sectors and countries, highlighting the importance of using a multi-sectoral method to achieve the overarching targets of GHSA 2024.

The panel discussed a wide range of topics. The first panelist, Dr. Nick Adkin, Deputy Director of Global Health Security, Department of Health and Social Care, United Kingdom, started the session with a specific but enormous problem to global health security: antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR affects not only public health, but also trade and food safety. As Dr. Adkin stressed, AMR is currently undermining progress already made in the public health field and has the potential to make everyday procedures—like hip replacements and chemotherapy—too risky to perform. Therefore, there is a great need for the global community to work together to fight against AMR. Although it would have been nice to hear how AMR is currently being explicitly battled, it was encouraging to see that many countries had action plans on fighting AMR and that environmental aspects are now being incorporated in the Action Package. Continue reading “GMU Biodefense Student Ambassador GHSA Reflection – Annette Prieto”

NextGen Health Security GHSA Reflections – Jamechia Hoyle

Dr. Jamechia Hoyle, Coordinator Next Generation Global Health Security Network, Visiting Scholar/Assistant Professor, Taipei Medical University, Adjunct Professor, George Mason University – Taiwan/USA

The 5thGlobal Health Security Agenda (GHSA) Ministerial Meeting, hosted by the Government of Indonesia, under the theme “Advancing Global Partnerships” showcased many success stories and overall increased capacity towards realizing a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats. In a time where the Democratic Republic of Congo is facing its 10thoutbreak of Ebola, cholera is spreading throughout Yemen, and the threat of pandemic influenza looms dedicated multisectoral commitments to preparedness are more important than ever. Continue reading “NextGen Health Security GHSA Reflections – Jamechia Hoyle”

GMU Biodefense Student Ambassador GHSA Reflection – Saskia Popescu

Saskia Popescu, MPH, MA, CIC – PhD Candidate, Biodefense George Mason University -USA

The infectious disease threats that jeopardize global health security are vast and evolve as technology becomes more sophisticated, populations grow, and the world gets a bit smaller. Efforts to reduce these vulnerabilities to infectious diseases have to be just as diverse and resilient. Despite strategies at the international, national, and local level, outbreaks continue to stress critical infrastructure. The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) seeks to address these vulnerabilities and gaps to help strengthen national capabilities in preparing for, detecting, and responding to infectious disease threats. The GHSA is an especially unique approach to address biological threats as it utilizes multisectoral partners and reaches far beyond the scope of government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and academia. In truth, to address the unique predicament of infectious disease, a new strategy was needed and the GHSA is just that. The 5thMinisterial Meeting of the GHSA was recently held in Bali, Indonesia, to address the most pressing issues facing global health security, assess our current state, and look towards the future with the release of the 2024 Framework. Continue reading “GMU Biodefense Student Ambassador GHSA Reflection – Saskia Popescu”

Review of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel “Biodefense Indicators: Progress in Implementing the National Blueprint for Biodefense”

By Michael Krug and Alexandria Tepper

On November 14th, 2018, the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense presented a discussion session entitled “Biodefense Indicators: Progress in Implementing the National Blueprint for Biodefense”. The five-hour event was composed of a series of expert panels spanning multiple fields, agencies, and backgrounds. The panels were moderated by five co-chairs from the Blue-Ribbon Study Panel, including: Senator Joseph Lieberman, Governor Thomas Ridge, Senator Tom Daschle, Representative Jim Greenwood, and Kenneth Wainstein. The discussion centered around the steps being taken to bring the strategies mentioned in the White House’s 2018 National Biodefense Strategy to a reality.

The panel’s initial remarks involved assessing the progress of the federal government to the threat of a biological element, whether it be naturally-occurring, man-made, or accidental, since the release of the panel’s  Blue Ribbon Blueprintin 2015. Senator Lieberman was determined to reinforce the idea that the Blue Ribbon Blueprint should “provide a roadmap to improving how we prepare for, defend against, and respond to biological threats of all natures.” The tone reflected by the chairs acknowledged that the progress made by the federal government has been promising but incomplete. The recent release of the 2018 National Biodefense Strategywas a major step forward in attempting to recognize and fix the shortcomings surrounding the biological threat facing the United States.  Gov. Tom Ridge explained the difficulties facing the Blue Ribbon’s cause, saying “The threat is real. It’s not sexy. Nobody’s talking about it. Whether it’s natural or generated by design, it’s a real problem. I’m interested in discussing today how we go forward as a country.” This statement reverberated the purpose of the panel and the uphill challenges facing the implementation of the National Biodefense Strategy process. Continue reading “Review of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel “Biodefense Indicators: Progress in Implementing the National Blueprint for Biodefense””

Event Summary and Analysis for “The Implications of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria”

by Wardah Amir, Graduate Student in the Security Policy Studies Program, The George Washington University

On September 14 2013, a deal was reached between the United States and Russia which set a deadline for the destruction of the declared Syrian chemical weapons stockpile. While the original deadline set by the deal was not met, on June 23 2014 the last of Syria’s declared chemical weapons had been successfully removed out of the country amidst its civil war. Despite these efforts, chemical weapons were continuously used in the Syrian Arab Republic. In April this year, Douma fell victim to yet another chemical attack. Roughly 40 to 70 lives were lost. Continue reading “Event Summary and Analysis for “The Implications of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria””

Review of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel “Fits and Starts: Reactionary Biodefense”

By Alexandria Tepper and Michael Krug, GMU Biodefense

On October 9th, 2018, the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense presented a discussion session entitled “Fits and Starts: Reactionary Biodefense”. The five-hour event was composed of a series of expert panels spanning multiple fields, agencies, and backgrounds. The panels were moderated by four co-chairs from the Blue-Ribbon Study Panel, including: Former Senator Joseph Lieberman, Former Governor Thomas Ridge, Senator Tom Daschle, and Kenneth Wainstein. The discussion centered around the steps taken, 17 years later, since the anthrax events of 2001. Continue reading “Review of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel “Fits and Starts: Reactionary Biodefense””

A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Multi-Disciplinary Threats

by Janet Marroquin, GMU Biodefense

Nearing the two year anniversary of the Biodefense Strategy Act and twelve years after the Amerithrax incident that changed the course of biodefense, a new National Biodefense Strategy has been released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In 2016, the Biodefense Strategy Act produced a congressional requirement for the White House to create a new biodefense strategy in response to a 2015 Blue Ribbon Study Panel report that determined the 2009 National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats to be inadequate in effectively protecting the U.S. from biological threats.  Policy recommendations made by the Panel and various other advisory councils, including the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the National Security Council, and the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (see previous Pandora Report article on the M.I.A. biodefense strategy) included the following: Continue reading “A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Multi-Disciplinary Threats”

Rebuilding Health Security in the Wake of Ebola

by Stephen Taylor – Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University

In late 2013 and early 2014, the West African nation of Guinea was caught unprepared when Ebola cases began spreading in its southeastern districts.  The outbreak rapidly spread to the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.  Lacking the public health capabilities of tracing and isolating Ebola cases and lacking the medical capacity to safely treat Ebola patients, all three countries were quickly overwhelmed as the outbreak grew to pandemic proportions. The pandemic spread to urban centers and then to seven other countries around the world.  In Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, the pandemic spanned three years and cost over 6 billion USD to bring under control.  Over 28,000 West Africans contracted Ebola virus disease and over 11,000 died.  10% of GDP disappeared in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone due to lost workforce and productivity.  This further resulted in lowered investment and a loss in private sector growth. Continue reading “Rebuilding Health Security in the Wake of Ebola”