R&D Roadmap Points Way to Biological Preparedness

OSTP today released the National Biosurveillance Science and Technology Roadmap, which identifies and prioritizes research and development (R&D) needs with the goal of giving decision makers and responders the information they need to protect the public from biological threats.

Biological threats such as the H7N9 influenza virus and the novel coronavirus recently identified in the Middle East—as well as those resulting from accidental releases or exposures or intentional, malevolent activities—have the potential to erupt suddenly and evolve quickly. Surveillance is essential for predicting, preventing, and mitigating the impacts of such events.

The Roadmap, drafted by the interagency Biosurveillance Science and Technology Working Group under the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Homeland and National Security, builds upon the National Strategy for Biosurveillance, published in July 2012. That document recognized that a well-integrated national biosurveillance enterprise can save lives by providing timely and accurate information for better decision making. The Roadmap identifies R&D priorities and objectives to enable implementation of the Strategy, such as:

  • Establish baseline levels of community and ecosystem risks, threats, and health;
  • Focus on R&D relating to forecasting technologies and models that consider ecological and evolutionary drivers of disease impact;
  • Develop rapid, reliable next-generation detection and diagnostic capabilities; and
  • Develop a national, interagency data-sharing framework that integrates biosurveillance information from disparate sources.

The Obama Administration is committed to working toward the achievement of the R&D goals identified in the Roadmap, and to realizing the integrated biosurveillance enterprise called for in the Strategy—not just through Federal actions but also through coordination across agencies, academia, industry, and the international community. The task is large, but the potential benefit for the health and security of all Americans, and indeed all the world’s people, makes the effort extremely worthwhile.

Franca Jones is OSTP’s Assistant Director for Chemical and Biological Countermeasures

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