Penn Professor Part of Committee Investigating Defense Challenges for Nonproliferation Beyond Former U.S.S.R.

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Media Contact:Jordan Reese | jreese@upenn.edu | 215-573-6604March 11, 2009


PHILADELPHIA -- Harvey Rubin, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Strategic Threat Analysis and Response, is among seven internationally recognized experts who have compiled a National Academy of Sciences report on the biological threats and nonproliferation challenges faced by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Rubin, as a member of the Committee on Prevention of Proliferation of Biological Weapons in States Beyond the Former Soviet Union, will announce these findings and participate in a panel discussion alongside committee chair
Adel Mahmoud of Princeton University at the National Academy of Sciences, 2100 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 10 to 11:30 a.m. , Friday, March 13.

Titled “Countering Biological Threats: Challenges for the Department of Defense's Nonproliferation Program Beyond the Former Soviet Union,” the 170-page report was co-authored by the panel in response to a request from the U.S. Congress. The report examines how the unique experience and extensive capabilities of the Department of Defense can be extended to reduce the threat of bioterrorism within developing countries outside the former Soviet Union, or FSU.

The report’s key points include:

• The DoD’s Biological Threat Reduction Program should engage in 10 countries outside FSU as the United States leads or supports interagency efforts.
• The BTRP should partner with the U.S. Agency for International Development and World Bank as well as with U.S. Department of State, Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Agriculture and World Health Organization.
• The DoD should streamline the chain of command and strengthen coordination with Global Emerging Infections Surveillance and Response System and combatant commands.
• Support of research is important, even in poor countries.
• Comprehensive evaluation of transferability of the Threat Agent Detection and Response Project is needed.
• Risk analyses and improved metrics should help measure reduction of biothreats.

During the past 12 years, DoD has invested $800 million in reducing the risk from bioterrorism with roots in the states of the FSU. The committee believes the risk of bioterrorism in other countries is too great for the DoD not to be among the leaders in addressing threats beyond the FSU.

Taking into account possible sensitivities about a U.S. military presence, the report indicates that the DoD should engage interested governments in about 10 developing countries outside the FSU in biological threat-reduction programs during the next five years. Whenever possible, DoD should partner with other organizations that have well-established humanitarian reputations in the countries of interest. For example, the USAID, CDC and WHO should be considered as potential partners.

"This report finds that detection, diagnosis and treatment of deliberately released human, animal or plant pathogens should be well integrated with the infrastructure and strategies used to combat the more likely events of naturally occurring of infectious diseases," said Rubin.

Rubin is a professor of medicine, microbiology and computer science at Penn, where he has served as faculty since 1983 and regularly follows developments involving dual-use issues throughout the world.

In addition to Rubin and Mahmoud, a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton, the statement’s authors include David A. Ashford, regional director for international services in the Sao Paulo, Brazil, office of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Gail H. Cassell, vice president, Scientific Affairs and Distinguished Lilly Research Scholar for Infectious Diseases at Eli Lilly and Company; Maj. Claire Cornelius, doctoral candidate in microbiology as part of a U.S. Army Long-Term Health Education and Training opportunity at the University of Chicago; Timothy Endy, associate professor of medicine at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University; and Richard L. Witter, veterinary medical officer with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory.

The complete text of “Countering Biological Threats: Challenge for the Department of Defense's Nonproliferation Program beyond the Former Soviet Union" is available at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12596#orgs.

To RSVP, contact Merc Fox at mfox@nas.edu or 202-334-2376.

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