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The United States Department of Defense wants to protect service members against emerging biological threats

USThe United States Department of Defense wants to protect service members against emerging biological threats

The Department of Defense is upgrading its strategy for developing medical countermeasures to safeguard military personnel against emerging biological threats.

In a newly released document titled “Approach for Research, Development, and Acquisition of Medical Countermeasures and Test Products,” the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Chemical and Biological Defense makes this quite obvious. This agency handles the Chemical and Biological Defense Program of the Department of Defense. The aim of the CBDP is to foresee future threats and provide the Joint Force with the tools necessary to fight and win in CB-contested scenarios.

Medical countermeasures including immunisations, diagnostics, and drugs have long been a CBDP focus. No matter how well our boots, suits, gloves, and masks work, our troops may not have them when they need them. According to CBDP medical director Dr. Kevin Wingerd, pharmaceutical countermeasures provide an added layer of defence.

What has changed is the threat’s character.

“The confluence of several disciplines and technologies is altering the landscape of biological threats,” said Wingerd. Particularly, technology has produced an almost infinite number of possible dangers against which we must protect.

In the past, the Department of Defense created medical countermeasures against a set list of particular dangers, most of which had already been weaponized by enemies. This “one bug, one medication” strategy, however, is untenable because to the constantly increasing number of possible threats, including new ones.

Neither is the Department only concerned with intentional biological threats. In his Biodefense Vision Memo issued in November 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III urged the Department to be prepared against naturally occurring and unintentionally released agents, in addition to standard purposeful agents. The new approach to medicinal countermeasures offers a road map for addressing this more complex issue set.

According to the paper, nonspecific medical countermeasures will allow soldiers exposed to an agent to continue on the battlefield. After that agent has been discovered, quick development of medical countermeasures that eradicate the particular danger will be provided to all combatants, even those who have just joined the conflict.

Nonspecific medical countermeasures have a wide range of action and are intended to treat a group of comparable substances, illnesses, or symptoms. Nonspecific medical countermeasures are especially important for new pathogens that lack medical countermeasures. By administering nonspecific medical countermeasures, symptoms may be alleviated, illness development could be slowed, and transmission of the agent could be reduced, enabling soldiers to continue fighting with little impairment. Even if the agent may be repressed for a length of time, a medical countermeasure that targets and removes the new agent is still necessary.

According to Wingerd, “Using nonspecific medical countermeasures allows the agent’s effects to be mitigated and the warfighter to remain operational and combat-ready, while allowing for the rapid development of specific medical countermeasures that can be used to eliminate the agent and protect incoming warfighters.”

To swiftly create narrow-spectrum medicinal countermeasures, the CBDP will use cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and form collaborations with reputable pharmaceutical firms. The CBDP views manufacturing capacity as a strategic concern, which the new strategy seeks to solve.

“What COVID has shown us is that without an industrial basis, it doesn’t matter how excellent your ideas are; they won’t go anywhere,” he noted, noting that relationships with agencies, academia, and U.S. friends and partners are also crucial.

In addition to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medical countermeasures, Wingerd cited the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as important CBDP interagency partners. Wingerd said, in reference to the newly revised National Biodefense Strategy, “This endeavour is really a government-wide effort, and the CBDP’s new strategy coincides with and supports the NBS.”

He said that he anticipates new developments in medical countermeasures to begin bearing fruit as early as next year, with more to come.

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