New book focuses on role of Sloan Foundation in development of U.S. biosecurity policy

"Preparing for Bioterrorism," a new book published by the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, expands on the history of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's involvement in U.S. biosecurity policy.

The book's author is Gigi Kwik Gronvall, is a senior associate at the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC where she is a professor of medicine. Gronvall is an immunologist by training who recent served as the science advisor of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. She is considered an expert in the safety and security of high-containment laboratories.

Gronvall said that the Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit organization founded in 1934, played a critical role in laying the groundwork for U.S. civilian biosecurity policy. The U.S. government viewed biosecurity as primarily a military issue until 2000, when the Sloan Foundation identified the missing civilian element in federal policy.

The foundation then began the process of funding civilian preparedness projects and building a network of experts to help solve newly arising problems. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and anthrax letter attacks occurred when the projects were in their nascence, but the Sloan Foundation's experts were still able to put their resources and knowledge into practical work.

Over the next decade, the foundation would go on to award $44 million in the field of biosecurity, offering consistent support that has changed the direction of U.S. policy.

"I hope other people will read this as a guidebook on how to effect real, positive change in government," Sloan said. "Because of Sloan's unique management style, and their commitment to try a range of ideas to see what would work, they provide a good tutorial for how to harness the passion, commitment, and energy of a diverse group of experts. And it worked. We have a way to go, but the US is much better prepared for a biological attack than it was in 2001."