The Time is Now for a National Biodefense Strategy

In biodefense, there is no more powerful a statement than the first words of the new National Biodefense Strategy: “It is a vital interest of the United States to manage the risk of biological incidents, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate.”

Battelle is poised to play a vital part in these next steps as we are leading innovation in integrated biodefense technology. Battelle is unlike other organizations in the biotechnology community; we have in-house access to technologies necessary to solve the multiple core challenges in global health security. We have ideas, talent and capabilities to perform persistent biosurveillance, predictive modeling, engage localized protection, and deliver long-term protection deployed across the country and the globe. The new biodefense strategy solidifies the government’s position, and we already are working to deliver on these important goals to serve the needs of our country. Biodefense is what we do.

The National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan for Countering Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness and Achieving Global Health Security focuses on how the U.S. can achieve a goal-driven approach to mitigating biological threats through research and development investments.

The National Biodefense Strategy has five stated goals:

  • Enable risk awareness and detection to inform decision-making across the biodefense enterprise.
  • Ensure biodefense enterprise capabilities to prevent bioincidents.
  • Ensure biodefense enterprise preparedness to reduce the impacts of bioincidents.
  • Rapidly respond to limit impacts of bioincidents.
  • Facilitate recovery to restore the community, the economy and the environment after a bioincident.

Battelle is no stranger to goal-driven research with milestones that make an impact. For the past 40 years, we have been working in the biopreparedness and biodefense space and delivering breakthrough solutions to the federal government and commercial clients and investing our own money internally to develop tools and practices that would protect our country. Innovations include biosensors, ecological surveillance, infectious disease testing, countermeasure development, vaccine testing, health data prediction and more. 

Battelle has worked with nearly all the 20 different agencies called out in the government’s new implementation plan. Unlike strategies of the past that have had weak collaboration, this new strategy leads with collaboration to develop integrated solutions that deliver meaningful outcomes. Biology is a complex, adaptable system, so integration of capabilities is key and Battelle has been serving in this capacity for decades.

The National Biodefense Strategy calls upon those 20 different federal agencies to seek out partners in the biodefense community to:

  • Detect early warnings of pandemics and biological threats
  • Prevent epidemics and biological incidents
  • Prepare to reduce the impacts of epidemics
  • Transform early warning of pathogens through next-generation technologies
  • Launch diagnostics for any new pathogen within 12 hours of an outbreak
  • Develop novel vaccines within 100 days

“Without an integrated biodefense system that can detect, prevent, and mitigate biothreats in real-time, we are vulnerable as a country, whether it’s a natural or deliberate act,” said Battelle Fellow Justin Sanchez, who wrote this Inside Battelle blog a year ago to discuss this topic. “As a country, we must choose health and economic prosperity driven by biotechnology instead of passive vulnerability where we are at the mercy of every new threat that impacts our lives.”

Again, Battelle already has taken action.

A downloadable white paper is available on our website that details our plan to enhance future biosecurity by embracing a broader strategic focus that leverages the capacity and innovation of the bioeconomy to enable success in the biosecurity mission.

Photo: biologist working in the lab

Battelle has supported the DHS S&T Biological Threat and Risk Assessments since 2006, including both laboratory-based threat characterization and advanced risk modeling to inform biosecurity decisions and R&D priorities. We have been a biosafety and biosecurity science provider for the DTRA Biological Threat Reduction Program since 2007. Additionally, we have supported research institutions in numerous countries to strengthen global health security practices and reduce the risk of bioincidents. 

Battelle has been involved in biological surveillance and detection for the federal government since the 1990s emphasizing next generation biodetection systems and advanced bioinformatics tools. For instance, we have developed a rapid DNA screening service called UltraSEQ™ that gives synthetic biology companies a resource for reducing risk of unintended production of DNA sequences of concern.

We currently aid the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in providing COVID testing at no cost for schools and congregate settings called Operation Expanded Testing (OpET). It provides a unique pillar to the nation’s ability to provide surge resources, leverage local and state coordination to provide necessary infectious disease screening within specified populations, and it can be easily converted to a sentinel surveillance network.

The OpET program captures community public health information, such as essential demographic and geolocation information to support population impacts related to ongoing testing. It helps to isolate positive cases of COVID within 24 hours and along with a capability of producing point-of-care molecular results in minutes.

Unlike much of the COVID testing that provided free rapid testing for personal or home use, this program provides a clinical result thus offering the backbone of a sentinel surveillance program. This program is voluntary and largely self-administered, giving the government the opportunity to reuse and expand on a civilian-based program with testing protocols, training, data exchange, and technical assistance to reach a larger number of people at much lower costs.

At Battelle, we understand the core capabilities the bioeconomy needs to enable a stronger biosecurity system, including response efforts for future pandemics and biothreats to human and animal populations. Infrastructure for advanced biotechnology provides agility in managing biothreats, supply chain manufacturing, and ensures resilience in the face of natural, economic, or geopolitical change. Battelle and its partners are leveraging the latest breakthroughs in the bioeconomy to develop new science and technology to enhance the nation’s biosecurity.

Photo: biosecurity globe

Posted
January 09, 2023
Author
Battelle Insider
Estimated Read Time
4 Mins
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