BRIEFER: Key U.S. Initiatives for Addressing Biological Threats Part 5

By: Dr. Yong-Bee Lim and Christine Parthemore

Today the Nolan Center, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, is releasing its fifth briefer in its series Key U.S. Initiatives for Addressing Biological Threats, which focuses on the future industrial base and the opportunities it offers for rapid medical countermeasure development. 

As the world continues to struggle with COVID-19, it must also prepare for subsequent infectious disease outbreaks – outbreaks that experts predict will occur more frequently. Further, biothreats do not just emerge from nature; greater distribution of equipment, materials, and knowledge have lowered barriers for developing biological weapons, and advances in the specificity of biotechnology are potentially opening new avenues for novel bioweapons.

In the United States, this work was driven by Operation Warp Speed (OWS), an effort predominantly between the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Defense (DoD). OWS leveraged interagency and public-private cooperation with judicious strategies to accelerate vaccine development, mitigate safety risks, and jump-start commercial-scale manufacturing. Despite ongoing issues with distribution and communications, the accomplishments of this initiative are clear: the game-changing development and deployment of vaccines against COVID-19 in just 11 months after the genetic sequence for the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes it was in the hands of researchers.

It is critical to capitalize on the successes of OWS and apply lessons from the experience to improve the industrial base for producing medical countermeasures. OWS should serve as the new minimum baseline, and future efforts should build on it for increased speed, scaling, and resilience. 

This is the focus of CSR’s fifth briefer in the series: The Future Industrial Base for Rapid Medical Countermeasure Development. Much like a standing firefighting capacity exists to put out fires, the U.S. must improve capacities for addressing biological threats. In this briefer, we propose several recommendations for improving rapid medical countermeasure development, production, and delivery as a cornerstone for addressing the full range of biological threats that we face:

  • Taking an ecosystem approach that encourages a strong industrial base for rapid medical countermeasure development, manufacturing, and deployment. 
  • Viewing the U.S. bioeconomy as a strategic asset capable of surge capacity to address novel infectious disease threats.
  • Improving U.S. government efforts to work with younger, innovative companies and small businesses.
  • Launching an annual exercise program to practice and improve this enterprise.
  • And more.

Read the full briefer here.


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