U.S. may be falling short on MCM development

Researchers recently said the U.S. is failing in its preparedness to respond to a biological attack, particularly in the area of developing and distributing medical countermeasures, according to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.

Col. Randall Larsen, the National Security Advisor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Health Security, and Lynne Kidder, the principal investigator for the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center's Bio-Response Report Card, said the U.S. received a failing grade when it came to enhancing the nation's capabilities for rapid response to prevent biological attacks from inflicting mass casualties.

Larsen was the executive director of the federal government's WMD Commission when it came out with the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism Report Card in January 2010. The report card gave the U.S. government grades on its progress in implementing recommendations made by the commission in the World at Risk report.

"In January 2010, the commission released a WMD report card assessing 37 aspects of the WMD threat," Larsen said. "The grades ranged from A's to F's. The failing grade that received the most attention, both on Capitol Hill and in the press, was the F grade for 'preparedness to respond to a biological attack.'"

The Bio-Response Report Card, which was released in October 2011 by the Bipartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center, served as a follow-up to the initial report to provide a detailed strategic analysis of the country's capabilities to respond to a biological attack.

Larsen and Kidder agreed the U.S. must make progress when it comes to developing medical countermeasures.

"One top priority (is) medical countermeasures: developing new models where the public and private sectors can work in close cooperation to develop new MCMs for the Strategic National Stockpile; developing the capability for rapid development of MCMs in response to new bio-threats (both man-made and naturally-occurring); and the greatest MCM challenge, finding the means to rapidly gain FDA approval for use of new MCMs," Kidder said.

Randall said the dispensing of medical countermeasures requires effective private-public collaboration.

"The federal government has continually received high marks for maintaining the SNS and having the means to rapidly distribute the MCMs to cities and counties in a crisis," Randall said. "However, the problem is getting these MCMs into the hands (and mouths) of the citizens in these communities."