|US military personnel don special biohazard gear during a training exercise designed to simulate a biological weapon attack. The Department of Defense and other agencies routinely hold training sessions throughout the country as part of a domestic bioterrorism preparedness program. 'The challenge is to integrate these forces to mount an effective response under various attack scenarios," says Prof. Steven Block. Courtsey: US Navy|
Author's note: In 2007, I attended a bio-defence briefing in Washington D.C., delivered by a DARPA scientist. It was as one would expect from DARPA, an incredible presentation on pipeline technologies. Since then I have always thought of DARPA as the 'bugs on the wall folks' and indeed they have successfully produced robotic bugs, but more significantly, in the briefing they discussed advanced bio-defence technologies which we were not allowed to take notes on or photograph the slides of; it was extremely exciting and I left with a sense of awe which DARPA tends to inspire.
Six years later, they have successfully manufactured 10 million doses of H1NI (flu) vaccine within a month. For pharmaceutical companies who invest up too and over a billion per drug and not forgetting the length of time one vaccine can take to bring to market, about ten years, the DARPA/Medicago manufacturing of 10 million doses of H1N1 in one month was a phenomenal feat. Here we are on the threshold of major breakthroughs in vaccine research, development and production, even manufacturing technologies and the future of bio-defence couldn't look brighter. While industry of course continues to work on live attenuated vaccine production is the future a synthetic one?
Advances in synthetic vaccine manufacturing, VLP's and even 3D bio-printing will significantly change our concept of bio-defence and the manufacturing process of medical counter-measures. The incorporation of these counter-measures will additionally change how we approach threat reduction and possibly remove many of the traditional concerns at the technical level. This could increase interest in areas which have typically been an after thought.
Dr. Jill Bellamy is an internationally recognized expert on biological warfare and defence. She has formerly advised NATO and for the past seventeen years has represented a number of bio-pharmaceutical and government clients working on procurement strategy between NATO MS and Washington DC. Her private government relations consultancy Warfare Technology Analytics is based in the Netherlands. Dr. Bellamy's articles have appeared in the National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Sunday Times of London, Le Temps, Le Monde and the Jerusalem Post among other publications. She is a CBRN SME with the U.S. Department of Defence, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Information Analysis Center and CEO of Warfare Technology Analytics.