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U.S. Department of Defense Officials Introduce New Strategies to Stimulate Medical Countermeasures Development

June 21, 2017

For the past several years, BIO has had the opportunity to partner with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) during the annual BIO International Convention to provide an open forum to discuss the challenges associated with developing medical countermeasures.

When we say medical countermeasures, or MCMs, we are referring to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics designed to protect and treat against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats such as anthrax and smallpox.  These threats are not just a public health concern, but a national health security issue that has the potential to impact military missions.  MCMs are a major component in ensuring that we are adequately prepared against these threats.

During the 3-hour special session on Monday, June 19, various DoD leaders and experts in MCM development outlined the myriad threats that we face, the challenges associated with MCM development, and innovative approaches that the DoD has implemented to address some of these challenges.

Dr. Jason Roos from the DoD’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense provided the opening keynote address and emphasized the importance of developing and sustaining partnerships with industry as critical to the success of their mission.

Following Dr. Roos was an expert panel that featured a discussion of the new business innovations that the DoD has been exploring to generate industry interest and encourage continued investments in MCM research and development.  Panelists discussed the new Priority Review Voucher program for MCM products as an incentive and the use of Other Transaction Agreements as an approach to streamline the contracting process.

The second panel featured a discussion of the technical capabilities DoD is seeking to leverage to combat the threats we face.  Dr. George Christopher, the Chief Medical Officer for the Joint Program Management Office for Medical Countermeasure Systems, discuss the DoD’s desire to investigate ‘dormant technologies’, or the applicability of solutions from other research areas, such as oncology, for use against infectious diseases.  Dr. Christopher also discussed the great potential that ‘game-changing’ technologies such as host-directed therapies that could be effective against CBRN threats.

While we were not able to generate solutions to all of the challenges that impact MCM development on Monday, those in the audience took away many reasons to be optimistic that we will be able to continue the rapid rate of innovation in this field to deliver life-saving medical countermeasures to the U.S. and global community.