House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation Holds Briefing on Biosecurity
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation yesterday held a briefing for Members of the Subcommittee to discuss gaps and next steps on biosecurity, threat reduction, and biotechnology advancements. Experts on the call included Dr. Beth Cameron, Vice President for Biological Policy and Programs, Nuclear Threat Initiative and former NSC Senior Director, Global Health Security and Biodefense; and Dr. Alexander Titus, Chief Strategy Officer, Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) and former Assistant Director for Biotechnology at the Department of Defense.
“I’m deeply concerned that the lessons our adversaries have learned from COVID-19 could include and the potential for pathogens to bring countries to their knees. This should be an awakening for our country that we have reached a particularly dangerous moment and need to focus on biosecurity,” said Chairman Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA). “We need to expand the conversation on biosecurity to include naturally occurring, accidental, and deliberate biological threats, and how we can prevent these threats from harming our citizens. Now is the time to look ahead and improve our programs and ensure our organizations are designed to spur innovation while mitigating risk, strengthen global health security, and protect U.S. and international health and national security.”
“I want to thank our panel of experts for joining today’s discussion on biosecurity. With the world increasingly interconnected, biosecurity and national security are two sides of the same coin. If we ignore this fact, we do so at our own peril,” said Ranking Member Ted S. Yoho (R-FL), DVM. “It is paramount that America continues to improve our biosecurity capabilities and solidify the international partnerships that will help to confront and defeat future pathogen viruses.”
“It’s vital that we invest in biosecurity and biosafety as an integral component of preventing globally catastrophic biological risks, including the potential for accidental and deliberate misuse, as well as reducing emerging biological risks associated with advances in technology,” said Dr. Beth Cameron, Vice President for Biological Policy and Programs at the Nuclear Threat Initiative.
“We are now in a world where our ability to engineer biology means we can no longer predict every biological threat. At the same time, emerging biotechnology provides immense opportunities to counter these threats, and so much more,” said Dr. Alexander Titus, Chief Strategy Officer, Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI). “We need to develop these technologies intentionally and responsibly with security in mind, but develop them never-the-less,”
The experts discussed the current architecture in place to address traditional biosecurity threats such as bioweapons or dual-use capabilities and how these biodefense and nonproliferation tools work to protect Americans across the full global health spectrum of deliberate, accidental, and naturally-occurring biological threats. The experts also discussed how in the 21st century, this architecture also needs to evolve to shape standards for the use of potentially dangerous biotechnologies and prevent the proliferation of tools that may be harmful to U.S. national security and international health.