BRIEFER: Key U.S. Initiatives for Addressing Biological Threats Part 1

By Bill Beaver, Yong-Bee Lim, Christine Parthemore, and Andy Weber

In 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) launched a program to explore new approaches to combating bioterrorism and biological weapons programs.[1] The vision was a versatile process that can be used to drastically reduce the time from spotting a new threat to the manufacture and distribution at scale of therapeutics, vaccines, diagnostics tests and other medical countermeasures. As has been seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, when dealing with a deadly pathogen, speed matters and can save millions of lives. Today, more and more Americans, starting with the most vulnerable, are receiving mRNA vaccines, the development of which the DoD funded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).[2]

In addition to DARPA, DoD houses the Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) – the center of gravity for biodefense and the department’s largest source of funding for research on the subject. CBDP was the home of one of the first initiatives to drastically speed up development of medical countermeasures against new biological threats. The program was called the Transformational Medical Technologies Initiative, and early successes include creation of a therapeutic against the 2009 swine flu.[3] This rapid-response approach, which the CBDP continues to champion, is critical for addressing biological threats before they impact U.S. national security.

Read the full briefer here.

[1] U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics), Transformational Medical Technologies Initiative (TMTI) Fiscal Year 2007 (FY 2007) Congressional Report (2007), 3-4.

[2] U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Adept: Protect. Accessed March 11, 2021

[3]  David E. Hoffman, “Going Viral,” The New Yorker, January 23, 2011.


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