This three-day, non-credit short-course is designed to introduce participants to the challenges facing the world at the intersection of biodefense and public health. See main articlefor further details or register here
This three-day, non-credit short-course is designed to introduce participants to the challenges facing the world at the intersection of biodefense and public health. Private and public organizations face a number of challenges in the biosecurity domain. A bioterrorist attack is both a public health emergency and a criminal act whose perpetrators need to be apprehended. Likewise, pandemics can affect not just public health, but also public safety and national security. The causes and consequences of these risks extend far beyond any one nation’s borders. Pandemics and bioterrorist attacks will also confront government agencies and the private sector with the need to make high-impact decisions with limited information during a rapidly evolving situation. Further complicating this domain is the dual-use nature of biology: the knowledge and skills developed for legitimate scientific and commercial purposes can be misused by those with hostile intent. Research with dangerous pathogens and the development of dual-use biotechnologies poses a dilemma for policy-makers and researchers who seek to maximize the benefits of such research while minimizing the risks. Thus, public health, law enforcement and national security agencies, pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and the academic life sciences community need to establish new priorities, such as developing new types of expertise, adopting new types of risk assessment and risk management strategies, and learning to collaborate with each other.
Implementing these new priorities will require substantial organizational learning and change. But large organizations have deeply embedded professional norms and organizational culture that make them resistant to change, even during times of crisis. Each organization responds with its own routines, and its own distinctive view of “the threat,” which dilutes new initiatives, encourages stovepiping, and impedes effective collaboration. These organizational tendencies grow even more pronounced during times of declining budgets. Thus, while the need for collaboration is great, the potential for differing organizational styles to produce conflict is high.
The 1976 swine flu scare, 2001 anthrax letter attacks, 2003 smallpox immunization campaign, SARS and avian influenza outbreaks, and 2009 influenza pandemic provide rich case studies of how elite organizations have struggled to address novel biological threats, make high-impact decisions with limited information, and work effectively with new partners. The lessons from these cases are broadly applicable to both public and private organizations seeking to address current and emerging biosecurity risks.
Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be awarded by George Mason University
Syllabus and reading materials
Dinner after first day of course
Lunch and breaks on all days
Certificate of attendance
Membership in the George Mason Biodefense Network on LinkedIn
Back to top
Among the specific course topics that will be included are:
Learning from SARS & Avian Flu
The SARS epidemic and the threat of H5N1 avian influenza are striking reminders of how infectious diseases can spread in unexpected ways. What can we learn from these experiences about the problems of disease surveillance, accurate diagnosis, effective treatments, and the detection of novel viruses? How would the SARS outbreak have been different if it had been a deliberate release? What are the potential global health consequences if avian flu became easily transmitted person-to-person?
The 1976 Swine Flu Scare: Lessons for Decision-Making
In 1976, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mounted a national immunization campaign against a projected new influenza virus that was feared to be unusually virulent. However, the virus never arrived. Instead 25 people died from unexpected side effects from the vaccine itself. What can we learn from this program about decision making with fragmentary evidence; about probing medical assumptions; and about accurate public communication?
Impediments to Organizational Change: Professional Norms, Organizational Routines and Culture
What are the impediments to organizational change? Is reorganization an effective response to these issues? What are effective strategies for changing an organization’s priorities?
Case Study: The 2001 Anthrax Letter Attacks
The 2001 anthrax letters caught public health and law enforcement agencies off guard. What are the lessons for diagnosis and treatment; for interagency cooperation; and especially for clear, consistent risk communication to the public?
Dual-Use Research: Balancing Benefits and Risks
Advances in the life sciences and the revolution in biotechnology are frequently referred to as being dual-use. The recent controversy over experiments with H5N1 is only the latest example of this dual-use dilemma. What is dual-use dilemma? What are the risks posed by dual-use research? How feasible and desirable are proposed measures to regulate dual-use research? What are the potential costs of such proposals? What is the proper balance to be struck between science and security?
Case Study: The 2003 Smallpox Immunization Program
How can we estimate the risks of an outbreak? How do we model the potential spread? What should be the risk threshold for policymakers evaluating immunizations? Who should bear the medical and financial burdens of the anticipated side effects? Does one public health program divert resources from other priorities?
Expanding the Law Enforcement Approach
The standard law enforcement approach stresses careful examination of the crime scene and a search for the perpetrators of the crime. However law officers are not trained in the identification of biological agents, nor in the capabilities needed to make or spread biological agents. How do we expand law enforcement routines to respond to bioterrorism? How do we organize law enforcement and scientific capabilities to work in harness? What role should law enforcement agencies like the FBI play in preventing bioterrorism?
Biological Weapons and National Security
Biological weapons are the least well-understood of the so-called weapons of mass destruction. What unique features of biological weapons differentiate them from chemical and nuclear weapons? Why have states and terrorists groups sought biological weapons? What national and international strategies can be adopted to reduce the proliferation of these weapons?
Barriers to Bioweapons: The Case of Filoviruses
Filoviruses, including Marburg and Ebola viruses, are feared and lethal viruses on an individual level, but they are not very communicable and have never killed more than a few hundred people per outbreak. How realistic is it that aggressors could modify these viruses by genetic engineering to become more effective bioweapons? Are the resources and expertise needed for this within the likely reach of terrorist groups?
Developing Medical Countermeasures
The 2001 anthrax letter attacks and 2009 influenza pandemic revealed a lack of effective medical countermeasures against traditional and emerging biological threats. The new national medical countermeasure initiative foresees an increased federal role in the development and purchase of the next generation of vaccines and therapeutics. What are the political, technical, regulatory and financial obstacles to this new initiative? Who should manage this ambitious effort? What should be the roles of public health agencies, national security agencies, and the private sector?
Back to top
Describe impediments to organizational change and identify strategies for overcoming these obstacles.
Explore the following case studies: the 2001 anthrax letter attacks; the 2003 smallpox immunization program; and the 1976 swine flu outbreak.
Examine lessons learned from the SARS and avian flu outbreaks and the 2009 influenza pandemic.
Investigate expanding the law enforcement approach.
Assess the threat posed by biological weapons to national security.
Understand the technical, political, regulatory and financial obstacles to developing new medical countermeasures for bioterrorist and pandemic threats
Back to top
Who Should Attend
Professionals and academics in public health, the life sciences, law enforcement, and national security who have responsibilities for preventing, preparing for, or responding to pandemics or bioterrorism.
Back to top
All of the faculty have been extensively involved with research and policymaking on public health and national security issues.
David R. Franz is a principal with SBDGlobal. Dr. Franz served in the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command for 23 of 27 years on active duty and retired as colonel. He served as commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and as deputy commander of the Medical Research and Materiel Command. Prior to joining the Command, he served as group veterinarian for the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). His current standing committee appointments include the Department of Health and Human Services National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity, Defense Intelligence Agency Red Team Bio-Chem 2020, the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control, the National Research Council Board on Life Sciences. Dr. Franz was the chief inspector on three United Nations Special Commission biological warfare inspection missions to Iraq and served as technical advisor on long-term monitoring. He also served as a member of the first two US-UK teams that visited Russia in support of the Trilateral Joint Statement on Biological Weapons and as a member of the Trilateral Experts’ Committee for biological weapons negotiations. Dr. Franz was technical editor for the Textbook of Military Medicine on Medical Aspects of Chemical and Biological Warfare released in 1997. He serves on the boards of the Federation of American Scientists and Integrated Nano-Technologies, LLC. Dr. Franz holds an adjunct appointment as Professor for the department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University. The current focus of his activities relates to the role of international engagement in the life sciences as a component of national security policy. Dr. Franz holds a DVM from Kansas State University and a PhD in physiology from Baylor College of Medicine.
Kendall Hoyt is an assistant professor at Dartmouth Medical School and a lecturer at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. Dr. Hoyt studies biosecurity strategy and biomedical research policy. She is the author of Long Shot: Vaccines for National Defense (Harvard University Press, 2012). Prior to coming to Dartmouth, she was an International Security Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. She has worked for the Executive Session for Domestic Preparedness at Harvard University, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, McKinsey and Company, and the Center for the Management of Innovation and Technology at the National University of Singapore. She received a BA from Duke University in 1993 and a PhD from MIT in 2002. For more information: http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/people/faculty/kendall-hoyt
Gregory D. Koblentz is an assistant professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs and deputy director of the Biodefense Graduate Program at George Mason University. Dr. Koblentz is also a research fellow with the Security Studies Program at MIT, and a member of the Scientist Working Group on Chemical and Biological Weapons at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington. He previously worked at Georgetown University, the Executive Session for Domestic Preparedness at Harvard University, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is the author of Living Weapons: Biological Warfare and International Security (Cornell University Press, 2009) and co-author of Tracking Nuclear Proliferation (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1998). His teaching and research interests focus on international security, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and homeland security. He received his PhD from MIT in 2004, his master in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government in 1999, and his BA from Brown University in 1996. For more information, see http://pia.gmu.edu/people/gkoblent
Jens H. Kuhn is a managing consultant at Tunnell Consulting, Inc., King of Prussia, PA, and lead virologist (contractor) at NIH/NIAID’s new maximum-containment facility, the Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick (IRF-Frederick) in Frederick, MD. Dr. Kuhn specializes in highly virulent viral pathogens. He is the author of Filoviruses: A Compendium of 40 Years of Epidemiological, Clinical, and Laboratory Studies (Vienna: Springer, 2008). He has studied and worked, among other countries, in Germany, Russia, South Africa, and South Korea. In the US, he rotated through the Arthropod-borne Infectious Disease Laboratory (AIDL), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). Dr. Kuhn was the first Western scientist with permission to work in the former Soviet biological warfare facility “Vector” in Siberia, Russia, within the U.S. DoD’s Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Dr. Kuhn was a contributor to the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland’s Controlling Dangerous Pathogens Project and a member of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation’s CBW Scientist Working Group. He is currently the chair of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses’ Filoviridae Study Group, and a member of the editorial board of Applied Biosafety- Journal of the American Biological Safety Association, and a special editor for Archives of Virology’s Virology Division News. Dr. Kuhn received his MD and one PhD (Medical Sciences) from the Charité in Berlin and his other PhD (biochemistry) from Freie Universität in Berlin. For more information on the Integrated Research Facility, see http://www.niaid.nih.gov/about/organization/dcr/ocsirf/Pages/OCSIFR.aspx
Sanford L. Weiner is a research associate at the Center for International Studies at MIT. He has written about organizational change and innovation in both military and public health agencies, including the CDC’s response to emerging diseases. He is now studying priorities for risk assessment and implementation among agencies responsible for biosecurity, including policies for pandemic flu. For more information: http://web.mit.edu/ssp/people/weiner/affil_weiner.html
Edward H. You is a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Biological Countermeasures Unit. Mr. You is responsible for creating programs and activities to coordinate and improve FBI and interagency efforts to identify, assess, and respond to potential intentional biological threats or incidents. These efforts include expanding FBI outreach to the Biological Sciences community to address biosecurity. Before being promoted to the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, Mr. You was a member of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force and served on the FBI Hazardous Materials Response Team. Mr. You has also been directly involved in policy-making efforts with a focus on biosecurity. He holds ex officio positions on the NIH National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity and the Synthetic Biology and Engineering Research Center Scientific Advisory Board. He is also an active working group member of the National Security Council Interagency Policy Committee on Countering Biological Threats; is the FBI representative on the Executive Order 13546 Select Agent Program Federal Experts Security Advisory Panel; and presented, on behalf of the FBI, to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues regarding biosecurity and synthetic biology. Prior to joining the FBI, Mr. You worked for six years in graduate research focusing on retrovirology and human gene therapy at the University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine. He subsequently worked for three years at the biotechnology firm AMGEN Inc. in oncology research. He received his BS in biological science from the University of California, Irvine and his MS in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.