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Call for Papers

Threat Agnostic Approaches to Biodefense and Public Health

A Health Security Special Feature

Brought to you by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

Submission Deadline: All manuscripts should be submitted for consideration by March 31, 2023, to All submissions will be subject to a rigorous peer review. We encourage submissions of original research articles, case studies, and commentaries.

Early detection of biological threats, whether naturally occurring or manmade, is critical for initiating a robust biodefense and public health response. Technologies and systems that enable frontline health workers and emergency responders to recognize an event is occurring and to act quickly can significantly reduce morbidity and mortality as well as wider economic and social disruptions. Historically, identifying novel pathogens associated with disease events has been time consuming and has substantially delayed the development of accurate diagnostic tools and appropriate preventive measures and treatment. Approaches to biological event detection and response that do not depend on knowing the identity of the biological threat agent but instead focus on characterizing the agent, host damage, or immune response are being explored as new avenues. Characterization of novel threat agents early in a biological event could reveal functional features such as transmission route, preferred host tissues and organs, cellular or molecular mechanism(s) of action, or susceptibility to available drugs, which could enable better and faster decisionmaking. Such “threat agnostic” approaches (ie, that do not rely on determining the identity of the agent or pathogen) show early promise for improving biodefense and public health preparedness and response.

The recently released National Biodefense Strategy, National Security Strategy, and American Pandemic Preparedness Plan include recognized technologies and systems to improve and quicken event detection. Threat agnostic approaches are increasingly being considered to address biosecurity, public health, and national security needs and complement existing approaches and capabilities. However, significant legal, policy, and technical gaps remain before such technologies can be effectively implemented.

This special feature in Health Security will be devoted to considering threat agnostic approaches to biodefense and public health. Researchers, practitioners, and leaders from a diverse range of disciplines and expertise are invited to respond to the following questions: What is the state of technology for threat agnostic detection and characterization? What are the legal, policy, and technical gaps that must be addressed before a threat agnostic system can be developed? How can data be best leveraged for pathogen detection and characterization? How will threat agnostic approaches change public health or national security activities, such as conducting epidemiological surveillance, investigating events, or reporting potential events?

Potential topics might include:

  • Policy Gaps – What policies are needed to implement threat agnostic systems to counter biological threats? What changes are needed in existing policies to enable this?
  • Data and Data Analysis – What are the data and analysis needs for a threat agnostic approach? Do we have the technologies and analytic capabilities to fully leverage the existing and future data necessary to enable threat agnostic approaches? Do we have or can we collect the right data? Do we have adequate infrastructure to collect, analyze, share, and store data?
  • Implementation – What modifications would be needed to current systems to enable a threat agnostic approach to be implemented and integrated? Does a threat agnostic system require new response plans and updated responder and clinician knowledge, skills, and abilities? Does a threat agnostic approach require changes in event reporting and notifications? Does a threat agnostic approach require new communication plans? Could a threat agnostic system be more vulnerable to misinformation or disinformation? Does a threat agnostic approach enable a more flexible and resilient response?
  • Integration With Public Health – Could a threat agnostic system be adopted for public health response? What changes would be needed for local, state, tribal, territorial, national, and/or international public health agencies to implement a threat agnostic approach to biodefense and public health emergencies?
  • Funding – Are funding systems set up to support the type of research needed to enable threat agnostic capability development and implementation? Are there responses and investments that have proven to be especially valuable for advancing threat agnostic biodefense or public health preparedness?
  • National and International Security – In the event of a deliberate or accidental biological event affecting humans, animals, and/or plants, are our national and international security agencies capable of quickly detecting and responding to the threat? Would a threat agnostic approach fundamentally change the country (eg, US) response domestically or internationally? If yes, how? What impact would a threat agnostic approach to counter biological threats have on national security?
  • Technologies to Enable Threat Agnostic – What technologies currently exist to enable threat agnostic approaches to counter biological threats? How robust are technologies for host damage characterization and immunological characterization? What are the technical barriers and gaps to developing and implementing a threat agnostic system? What technologies are needed in the next 5 to 10 years to enable threat agnostic approaches to counter biological threats?

Please direct questions about the special feature to Lane Warmbrod ( and any questions about the journal or the submission process to Kathleen Fox (

Health Security, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., is a bimonthly peer‐reviewed journal. It serves as an international forum for debate and exploration of the key strategic, scientific, and operational issues posed by biological weapons, pandemics and emerging infectious diseases, natural disasters, and other threats to global health. The journal provides multidisciplinary analyses and perspectives essential to the creation of strategies and programs that can diminish the consequences of health emergencies, epidemics, and disasters.

The journal’s international audience includes those professional communities that have strategic, scientific, or operational responsibilities critical to improving health security, including medicine, public health, law, national security, bioscientific research, agriculture, food safety, and drug and vaccine development.

Health Security is indexed in MEDLINE; PubMed; PubMed Central; Current Contents®/Social & Behavioral Sciences; Social Sciences Citation Index®; Social SciSearch®; Journal Citation Reports/Social Sciences Edition; EMBASE/Excerpta Medica; EMBiology; Scopus; ProQuest; CAB Abstracts; and Global Health.

Information for authors: The Threat Agnostic Approaches to special feature will be published in Health Security in 2023. Scholarly and review articles, descriptions of practice, case studies, and commentaries are welcome. Original article manuscripts can be up to 4,000 words exclusive of the abstract, tables, figures, and references. Please consult the journal website for specific submission instructions (



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