Biodefense expert urges international collaboration

Biodefense Expert and former Commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases David R. Franz urged lawmakers on Thursday to facilitate scientific and professional communication on biosecurity issues during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats meeting examined biological threats to the U.S. from Russia, other nations or non-state actors.

Franz, who is currently a member of the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity and chair of the Biological Subgroup of the National Academy of Science's Committee for International Security and Arms Control, cited Cold War-era communication between scientists in the U.S. and Soviet Union on nuclear issues as critical to maintaining security.

The collapse of collaboration between the U.S. and Russia and Central Asian countries in light of recent tensions in Ukraine is a mistake, Franz said.

"The United States has stopped working with friends who, in some cases, desperately need help with important public health issues," Franz said. "It is extremely disappointing for me to watch us simply turn our backs on friends, and for us it threatens to draw another veil across some of the few windows we have into a high-risk and dangerous biological world."

Franz praised the Biological Weapons Convention as an international tool for controlling bioweapons, but said it is not sufficient in providing biosecurity as it is not possible to verify that every nation is in compliance.