Dr. Matt Hepburn, Senior Advisor to the OSTP Director, Pandemic Prevention
Dr. Andrew Hebbeler, Principal Assistant Director for Health and Life Sciences
Dr. Steph Guerra, Assistant Director for Health Security and Biodefense
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration fulfills a commitment that President Biden made on his first day in office: to review existing national biopreparedness policies and develop recommendations for how the Federal Government should update them, based on lessons learned from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other biological threats our Nation faces. As the past year has so acutely emphasized to all of us, pandemic preparedness and pandemic response cannot happen in siloes; instead, these lines of effort must be integrated. This means we must work together to anticipate, prevent, and prepare for future threats, all while responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the monkeypox public health emergency, and other health threats as they arise.
The National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan on Countering Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness, and Achieving Global Health Security provides a whole-of-government framework that organizes how the U.S. Government manages its activities to more effectively assess, prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from biological threats. It builds from a holistic “One Health” approach by interweaving efforts addressing human, animal, plant, and environmental threats throughout. The strategy also expands the U.S. Government’s efforts to address the full range of future biological threats of natural, accidental, and deliberate origin, incorporates both technological and policy needs revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and provides an opportunity for our government to build core values of equity and accountability into our efforts to protect the health and security of the American people.
Importantly, the National Biodefense Strategy released today builds upon the transformational goals set out in the American Pandemic Preparedness: Transforming Our Capabilities plan by setting ambitious deadlines and metrics for our collective work to develop and deploy resulting innovations during active response. For example, the National Biodefense Strategy recommits our federal government to achieve the 100 Day Mission goal – developing vaccines for new pandemics within 100 days – which was welcomed by the United States and G7 countries in the summer of 2021.
The National Biodefense Strategy goes even further by setting new audacious targets across pandemic preparedness capabilities. These include: increasing vaccine uptake rates to over 85% through evidence-based public messaging and education campaigns; developing and deploying pathogen-specific tests within 30 days; producing rapid, low-cost, point-of-need diagnostics within 90 days; repurposing effective therapeutics within 90 days; and maintaining clinical trial infrastructure so that new trials can be launched within 14 days of medical countermeasure identification; among others, so that when the next biological threat emerges, we are ready to act. Meeting these milestones will not be possible without a transformational investment in scientific innovation to supercharge our pandemic preparedness capabilities. Science will lead the way.
Success will depend on a culture of collaboration and experimentation to address novel and persistent threats—and to do so in a way that ends rather than exacerbates existing inequities. Over the past two years, Departments and Agencies across the U.S. Government have raised their hands to serve the American people through pandemic response. We must continue to support these whole-of-government efforts, which will require significant and sustained funding from Congress.
Further, we must move beyond bureaucratic silos to make real and lasting progress on our most ambitious scientific goals to support the National Biodefense Strategy, including: rapid development and deployment of diagnostics to contain an outbreak; novel mechanisms to deliver life-saving vaccines and treatments; host-based monitoring of disease through wearable technologies; ubiquitous genomic sequencing for early warning and real-time monitoring technology; interventions to reduce disease transmission indoors; trusted communication networks across state, local, and Tribal partners for more equitable response; and more. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (WHOSTP) established the Steering Committee on Pandemic Innovation to drive this cross-agency collaboration. You can read more about these innovative technologies, our progress over the last year, and our future goals in our First Annual Report on Progress Towards Implementation of the American Pandemic Preparedness Plan released earlier this month.
Both the National Biodefense Strategy and American Pandemic Preparedness plan set out a blueprint that will not lay dormant until the next pandemic. The described activities can be ‘exercised’ by taking on health challenges such as seasonal influenza, viral hepatitis, and malaria. In these endeavors to reduce or eliminate public health threats and improve the everyday health of all Americans, we will be innovating in a manner that will also prepare us for future pandemics.
The WHOSTP is also working with the whole-of-government to harness the possibilities of biotechnology and to build biomanufacturing capacity through the recent Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy. This Executive Order will drive more robust and coordinated Federal investment in biotechnology R&D, strengthen the biological data ecosystem, support a diverse biotechnology workforce, and expand domestic biomanufacturing production capacity, all of which support our goals in pandemic preparedness and public health.
The Biden-Harris Administration firmly believes it is our generational responsibility to translate the bold biodefense and pandemic preparedness vision outlined across our biopreparedness plans into concrete action that will protect the United States and the world. And for that, the WHOSTP continues to commit our expertise, experience, and enthusiasm to work in partnership with the whole of society to achieve these goals together.