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Blue Ribbon Study Panel Examines Surveillance and Detection Issues in Biodefense

March 20, 2015
The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense held the third of four meetings on Thursday, March 12, 2015. The goal of the Panel is to evaluate the United States’ level of preparedness for a natural or deliberate biological or chemical event and to develop actionable recommendations toward the aim of preparedness. The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense will build off the work previously done by the 9/11 Commission and the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Commission and is comprised of former Members of Congress and senior federal agency officials, including BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood.

The March 12th meeting focused on surveillance and detection issues. There were four panels on topics ranging from clinical surveillance to law enforcement and attribution, a lunch keynote on the human-animal interface in infectious disease, and opening remarks from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The day’s discussion centered largely around technologies for surveillance and detection of biothreats, including laboratories, diagnostics, and environmental detection systems; funding for surveillance innovation; and instilling “bioresponsibility” as a system of deterrence. Conversation also focused on the reestablishment of a Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense position at the White House and evaluation of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) “model” for funding innovative technologies.

In remarks throughout the day, Mr. Greenwood emphasized the fact that, as it is not always clear to manufacturers what the government wants, there is no market, and no five year budget plan, the Panel needs to make strong recommendations for refreshing BARDA and creating more certainty.

The final panel included accounts from four satellite workshops which occurred since the Panel’s February meeting. Tibby Posillico, CEO, Elusys, presented a report out of a February 19th industry workshop on medical countermeasure (MCM) development, which was held in conjunction with the Blue Ribbon Panel. Dr. Posillico outlined industry’s recommendations: (1) sustaining progress and investing for the future; (2) increasing transparency in the public-private partnership; (3) streamlining the government contracting process; (4) improving coordination between government partners; (5) strengthening the public-private partnership through risk-sharing and incentives; and (6) improving global threat awareness. Mr. Greenwood asked Dr. Posillico about possible pushback that these recommendations may receive, particularly in relation to finding a balance between increased transparency with those involved in the MCM enterprise and the risk of increasing our nation’s vulnerability through more information.

The final meeting will be held on April 1st and will explore response and recovery. Following the April 1st meeting, the Panel will develop a report of findings from the four meetings and various satellite workshops and actionable recommendations for future Congresses and Administrations. To learn more about the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, visit