Experts discuss applying U.S. biodefense strategies internationally

Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., the makers of the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved anthrax vaccine, recently hosted a biodefense workshop in Washington attended by representatives of a number of European and Asian countries.

The workshop, held at the Washington offices of Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., provided a forum to discuss how the development of U.S. biodefense policies could be applicable in other nations.

Emergent BioSolutions, Inc.'s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Allen Shofe called the event a means to share critical knowledge between friendly nations. The company is currently working at full capacity for the U.S. government and will continue to do so for years, but as Shofe said, "Noah started building the ark before it started raining.

"We are ready to go to every country we can to discuss the threat of bioterror so they can learn from our experience"

Colonel Zoltan Bone, the representative from the Hungarian Armed Forces, said that each nation would undoubtedly take a different approach to biodefense, one that reflects national character as well as priorities.

"It would be interesting to know, and I would like to see, if you could name each nation on how it approaches the issue," Bone said.

Dag Liden, the Swedish military attaché to the United States, said that with limited resources, it can be difficult for some countries to prioritize spending on biodefense. He felt that regional cooperation, perhaps among Nordic countries, could be investigated.

Japan's Assistant Defense Attaché to the United States, Yoshihiro Iseri, said that he was surprised to learn the extent of U.S. strategic planning involving the use of biological agents as offensive weapons.

Captain Timo Junttila of the Finnish Defense Forces said that, ultimately, each country assesses threats according to its particular geostrategic position and plans accordingly. He said that Finland has created a mobile rapid response biodefense unit that can respond globally to emergencies.

Supporting a biodefense infrastructure has proven to be a costly undertaking for the United States, and one that requires a great deal of planning. Internationally, it remains to be seen how many U.S. allies will allocate resources to the threat of biological weapons.

Shofe said that advanced preparation would be the critical element in how nations prepare for a worst case scenario.

"We cannot just turn on the spigot for protection," Shofe said.