Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense holds first meeting

The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense held its first meeting this week. | Courtesy of BIO

The Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense met for the first time Thursday in Washington, D.C., and will look at identifying and recommending any changes to federal policy and laws that will increase the country's biodefense and preparedness.

Dr. Robert Kadlec, a former specialist assistant to the president for Homeland Security and senior director for biological defense policy, will lead the study. The bipartisan panel is made up of former senators such as Joe Lieberman and Tom Daschle; former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge; Donna Shalala, former secretary for Health and Human Services; and Jim Greenwood, former U.S. House member and current president and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Ridge and Lieberman will be co-chairmen of the panel. Ridge said he doesn't want to wait for a “biological 9/11” to force Congress to act.

“We’ve invited these experts here today to help us develop concrete recommendations on which policymakers can act right now, to optimize our preparedness,” Ridge said.

Greenwood said threats such as Ebola and terrorist groups that could use biological weapons are just part of the growing challenges the country faces from abroad.

“It is clearly necessary to assess our current bio-defense capabilities and readiness to respond to such threats.”

Nearly a dozen experts convened to provide updates on biological and chemical threats, as well as possible gaps in awareness in U.S. policy and laws. The panel will publish its findings and recommendations in the spring of 2015.