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Center Offers Biosecurity Policy Recommendations to the Obama Administration

Strategic Priorities and Program Recommendations Outlined

MARCH 30, 2009 – Baltimore, MD – President Barack Obama has asserted his commitment to strengthening American biosecurity as part of his agenda for homeland security. In response, Center Directors Tara O’Toole, Tom Inglesby, and senior staff of the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have recommended strategic and programmatic priorities for the new administration, the Congress, and the federal agencies as they work to confront the biosecurity challenges facing the nation (see “Biosecurity Memos to the Obama Administration). Among the Center’s top biosecurity strategy recommendations:

  • Make a robust biodefense a top national security priority. President Obama and his senior advisors should clearly articulate and act on this priority.
  • Establish a concept of operations plan that will guide the nation’s response to public health emergencies of national significance. A demonstrated national capacity to respond effectively to major biological attacks not only would prevent widespread casualties, but also may serve as a deterrent against such attacks.
  • Set a long-term strategy for developing and producing anti-infective medicines, vaccines, and rapid diagnostics. Because drug and vaccine development take time and sustained effort, work on this should be accelerated.
  • Integrate biodefense strategy into economic stimulus measures. A comprehensive biodefense strategy will spark technological innovation, create jobs, and help re-build important parts of the economy. The near- and long-term value of this investment ought to be made clear.

The Center also addresses specific programmatic recommendations in the following key areas:

  • Biodefense funding – biodefense budgeting would strongly benefit from more transparency and longer planning cycles.
  • Prevention – the U.S. should continue to support the BWC and other international initiatives to prevent terrorism, improve intelligence collection, enact the right form of laboratory security, and strengthen deterrence by ensuring that we have the capacity to effectively respond to attacks and have a rapidly improving forensics capacity.
  • Hospital and healthcare system preparedness – HHS and DHS should develop a national—not just federal—plan for healthcare response to large-scale health events such as an attack with biological or nuclear weapons, an influenza pandemic, or large-scale natural disasters.
  • Public health preparedness – build on state and local preparedness improvements.
  • Biosurveillance – existing biosurveillance systems should be evaluated, and an overall strategic plan should be advanced to guide funding and development of new systems.
  • Expanding the role of the public – the public should be involved in policy and decision making, through community- and faith-based organizations and other public-private partnerships.
  • Medical countermeasures – basic science and advance development and manufacturing efforts need to be supported in ways that will accelerate the pace of development of vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, and other medical products.

The authors note that, “[t]aken together, these and other programs build and sustain infrastructure the country needs, provide stimulus and job growth to important sectors of the economy, and, most importantly, will strengthen the national security of the country against present and future biological threats.”

“Biosecurity Memos to the Obama Administration” appears in the March 2009 issue of Biosecurity and Bioterrorism at and on the Center for Biosecurity’s website at


The Center for Biosecurity is an independent, nonprofit organization of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Center works to affect policy and practice in ways that lessen the illness, death, and civil disruption that would follow large-scale epidemics, whether they occur naturally or result from the use of a biological weapon.



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