Flexibility key to preventing bioterror attack, BIO International Convention told

"We need to be prepared for the known to deal with the unknown," Michael Kurilla of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said last week at the 2010 BIO International Convention.

Kurilla spoke as part of the Public Private Partnerships for State-of-the-Art Countermeasures panel, which also included John D. Grabenstein, a pharmaco-epidemiologist with the U.S. Army Medical Command in Falls Church, Virginia; Major General James K. Gilman, the commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command at Fort Detrick; and Dr. Nicole Lurie, a Senior Natural Scientist and the Paul O' Neill Alcoa Professor of Health Policy at the RAND Corporation.

Also taking part in the panel were Paul Chaplin, Executive Vice President of Research and Development and Chief Science Officer Managing Director of Bavarian Nordic and James Davis, the executive vice president for Human Genome Sciences.

"We need to recognize the array of threats and be flexible," Dr. Lurie said of the ever growing threat of bioterror. "There are guys out to get us. Their attempts have not been successful but I don't doubt there are people who are actively pursuing it. The tools for a bioattack are very accessible."

Major General Gilman agreed, noting that the hardest part of dealing with the threat of bioterror is knowing who the enemies are, as it is not just nations but small factions within nations.

"This a growing concern and we can expect an event in the near future," Major General Gilman said.

Paul Chaplin said that the goal of private corporations should be to find the threats that the government says exist and develop countermeasures.

"The ability to create a threat increases daily," Chaplin said.

The government and corporations must work together to prioritize work on bioterror deterrents and remedies, John Grabenstein said.

Countermeasures, according to Dr. Lurie, need to be created that can be rapidly produced no matter what sort of bioterror method is used.

Major General Gilman expanded on Dr. Lurie's call for rapidly produced countermeasures, noting that the countermeasures need to be based on what is most likely.

"We need to prioritize what is most probable while covering a broad range," Major General Gilman said. "A lot of work needs to be done. We have to make sure our infrastructure is ready to go and work in the event of an attack."