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Enhancing Biosecurity

New bill takes an important step towards countering the twin threats of natural pandemics and biological terrorism.

The House votes today on the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2006. This legislation amends the Public Health Service Act to require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a strategic plan for integrating new technologies into current biodefense and emerging infectious disease requirements.

The bill seeks to accelerate the development of countermeasures to pandemic diseases such as vaccines and disease treatments, and directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a Biomedical Advancement and Development Authority to oversee planning and progress.

This is an important step towards enhancing United States biosecurity. Until now, the federal government’s plan for responding to the twin threats of natural pandemics and biological terrorism has assumed that state and local entities have the resources and capabilities to take over primary responsibility for managing a crisis. The reality is that they do not. Establishing a central federal authority to promote advancement is a good first step toward making America safer.

The Center for American Progress earlier this year brought together a distinguished group of experts from the homeland security, nonproliferation, and public health communities to discuss U.S readiness for a major biological incident in a new report entitled “Biosecurity: A Comprehensive Action Plan.” The report, written by Jonathan B. Tucker and Andrew J. Grotto, argues that biological weapons and natural pandemics, such as avian flu, share fundamental characteristics that the United States can leverage in order to counter both of these threats more effectively.

Since 9/11, the United States has undertaken a series of worthy efforts to strengthen biosecurity. But these have not added up to an effective biosecurity system primarily due to a failure to connect plans with the capabilities for implementation. The report offers recommendations in the interrelated and mutually reinforcing areas of global nonproliferation, domestic and international public health, and scientific research and development.

Read the full report:

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