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Prepare and Protect from Biological Threats

June 16, 2015
Yesterday the Alliance for Biosecurity hosted a panel that outlined the important role played by industry in preparedness against biosecurity threats. The session, Learning from the Ebola Outbreak: Sustaining and Strengthening the Public-Private Partnership and Ensuring Preparedness, included government funders of product development and procurement and representatives from companies engaged in the development of medical countermeasures.

The Alliance is a coalition of more than a dozen biopharmaceutical companies and academic institutions that advocates for public policies and funding to support the rapid development, production, stockpiling, and distribution of critically needed medical countermeasures. The group has been vocal in its support for funding of preparedness programming, and its advocacy for transparent government development, and procurement plans for vaccines and therapeutics that lack commercial markets.

Monday’s panel outlined some of the lessons learned from the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and highlighted how governments and companies can work together in a more efficient and effective manner going forward. Elizabeth Posillico, President and CEO of Elusys Therapeutics, moderated the discussion and commented afterward that the session provided an excellent opportunity for BIO attendees to hear directly from key government leaders on possible research and development opportunities related to medical countermeasures to meet public health and national security needs. She added that strong public-private partnerships are essential to ensuring that the medical countermeasures enterprise is robust and responsive. “The US government can provide critically needed financial resources and access to facilities that can handle dangerous pathogens. Industry can provide innovation, know-how and expertise to ready medical countermeasures for approval.”

The diverse group brought varying perspectives to the question of how the United States can best protect itself from emerging disease threats and potential biological attacks. Preparedness, coordination, and the need for a clear understanding of the role of industry were key themes in the discussion. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, whose mission is to help drugs and vaccines over the so-called “valley of death,” works with companies to get products from the basic research stage through to manufacturing. The Department of Defense plays a key role as the organization that sets threat assessments that determine which products and how much of each the government decides to procure.

In the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak, there have been many questions about why certain Ebola treatments and vaccines had languished for years in the development stage. Panelists highlighted the need for better coordination and underscored some of the key questions and challenges currently facing government agencies and industry stakeholders who together play a pivotal role in protecting the American public from biological threats. What is clear is the need for strong public-private partnerships to sustain the development of vaccines and therapeutics that are needed now and to manage emerging threats in the future.

Maureen Donahue Hardwick, Secretariat & Legal Counsel, Alliance for Biosecurity