National Biodefense Science Board calls for greater collaboration

The National Biodefense Science Board has released a 103 page reports as part of a comprehensive review of the nation's medical countermeasures efforts and the nation's ability to withstand a bioterror attack.

"Our most important conclusion is that leadership, discipline, and synchronized effort are not lacking but are unfocused," the report says. "This problem can be overcome by the HHS secretary assembling the agency leaders, designating the ASPR (assistant secretary for preparedness and response) as the coordinating authority, and directing a synchronized, prioritized, common effort toward the nation's goals."

The board has recommended that the HHS chief collaborate with the White House on a national strategy to counter CBRN threats and possibly establish a position on the National Security Council to lead the strategy.

The board also recommended that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promptly identify "at least three high-priority new MCMs the department will develop to counter CBRN threats, with target timelines. At least one of these should address radiation exposure."

This step, the board says, should be coupled with the development of broader prioritized lists of threats to guide further efforts.

The HHS secretary should also, the report says, designate the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority as "the MCM Portfolio Director, to coordinate technical aspects of balancing the countermeasures menu."

In working with the Department of Homeland Security, the report observes, the HHS secretary would be able to overcome obstacles to the distribution and administration of MCMs to those who need them, especially children and those with limited functional ability.