Information about most of the activities carried out at The National Academies can be found on the Current Projects System (CPS; http://www8.nationalacademies.org/cp/). The CPS provides information about our current committee activities that are subject to the requirements of Section 15 of the Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments of 1997 (FACA). Information in CPS includes descriptions of project scope, names and affiliations of committee members and statements of their qualifications, notice of data-gathering meetings of committees, summaries of closed committee meetings or sessions, and titles of committee reports at the time that they are publicly released. A Public Access Records Office to provide access to project materials is available to the public.
Not all activities of the National Academies are listed in CPS. Information on these other activities may be found by using the Search feature on the homepage of the National Academies (http://nationalacademies.org/) or at the web sites of our major units such as the Transportation Research Board, which administers major research support programs, or the Institute of Medicine, which carries out a number of Forums on particular topics and issues.
This part of the Biosecurity website provides examples of current projects. It is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but we hope that you will find it a useful way to discover some of the many current activities relevant to biosecurity going on at the Academies.
Biodefense, Bioterrorism, and Bioweapons
PCR Standards for the BioWatch Program
An ad hoc committee will conduct a study and prepare a report that will evaluate and provide guidance on appropriate standards for the validation and verification of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and assays used by the BioWatch Program – such that adequate performance data is available to public health and other key decision makers with a sufficient confidence level to facilitate the public health response to a BioWatch Actionable Response (BAR).
Specifically the committee will:
- Determine PCR assay test and evaluation criteria that will provide a reasonable measure of confidence to federal, state, and local public health officials and key stakeholders.
- Identify and evaluate the Stakeholder Panel on Agent Detection Assays (SPADA), the Public Health Actionable Assays (PHAA) and any other existing and proposed standards applicable for use in defining the performance (validation and verification) of PCR assays for the BioWatch and other programs to ensure confidence as indentified in Task 1 above. Standards are to be evaluated in terms of performance, cost, and public health applicability.
- Examine current PCR protocols used by the BioWatch program and other relevant biosurveillance programs and determine if the processes used to assess the performance of these protocols and assays is adequate to meet the standards identified in Task 2 above.
- Determine whether improvements could be made by adopting changes based on the evaluation in Tasks 2 and 3 above.
- Determine if any existing standards approach is conducive, taking into consideration cost, schedule, and data requirements, to measuring performance of a PCR assay in multiplexed format.
- In the event that no approach currently in existence is judged to be appropriate in Task 5 above, provide recommendations for aspects that a standard must include to measure performance of multiplex PCR technology.
Industrialization of Biology: A Roadmap to Accelerate Advanced Manufacturing of Chemicals
In order to realize the full benefit of research investments intended to enable the advanced manufacturing of chemicals using biological systems, an ad hoc committee will develop a roadmap of necessary advances in basic science and engineering capabilities, including knowledge, tools, and skills. Working at the interface of synthetic chemistry, metabolic engineering, molecular biology, and synthetic biology, the committee will identify key technical goals for this next-generation chemical manufacturing, then identify the gaps in knowledge, tools, techniques, and systems required to meet those goals, and targets and timelines for achieving them. It will also consider the skills necessary to accomplish the roadmap goals, and what training opportunities are required to produce the cadre of skilled scientists and engineers needed. While focused on industrial manufacturing of chemicals, the roadmap challenges identified here will also be relevant to applications in health, energy, environment and agriculture by advancing the tools and techniques required for new development in these areas.
Essential elements of the roadmap that the committee will consider in the study and in its report, include the following: identification of the core scientific and technical challenges that must be overcome; identification of and timeline for tools, measurement techniques, databases, and computational techniques needed to serve as the building blocks for research and applications; how to develop, share, and diffuse common interoperable standards, languages, and measurements; and when and how to integrate non-technological insights and societal concerns into the pursuit of the technical challenges.  The report will provide guidance to both the research and research funding communities regarding key challenges, knowledge, tools, and systems needed to advance the science and engineering required for advanced manufacturing of chemicals using biological systems and to develop the workforce required to realize these advances. The report will not include recommendations related to funding, government organization or policy issues.
Forum on Synthetic Biology
The Board on Policy and Global Affairs’ Committee on Science, Technology and Law has established a forum for discussions about scientific, technical, ethical, legal, regulatory, security, and other policy issues associated with synthetic biology. The forum will stimulate dialogue about issues of mutual interest to its membership by serving as a venue in which to discuss scientific advances in, challenges and opportunities for, and public policy concerns about synthetic biology. The specific agendas for forum meetings will be determined by the forum membership. It is expected, however, that the forum will begin its consideration of synthetic biology by addressing the near, mid- and far-term technical advances that have potential security and safety aspects and identifying possible strategies to address these aspects during both the development and post-development phases of the emerging technologies.
Forum on Medical and Public Health Preparedness for Catastrophic Events
The Forum serves to foster dialogue among stakeholders and provide ongoing opportunities to discuss and confront issues of mutual interest and concern. The Forum provides a neutral venue for broad ranging policy discussions that serve to facilitate coordination and cooperation among the public and private stakeholders in developing and enhancing the nation’s medical and public health preparedness. More specifically, the Forum: provides a catalyst for voluntary public/private collaboration on topics where there is synergy among potential partners; helps define the scope of the field and thus sets the stage for future policy action; brings ongoing attention and visibility to important preparedness issues; explores new approaches for resolving problem areas; and elevates the general understanding and visibility of medical and public health preparedness in the broader research, public policy, and other appropriate communities.
Forum on Microbial Threats
In its 1992 report, Emerging Infections: Microbial Threats to Health in the United States, the IOM pointed to some major challenges for the public health and medical care communities in detecting and managing infectious disease outbreaks and monitoring the prevalence of endemic diseases. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Infectious Diseases developed a national strategy for doing so and, with the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, asked the IOM to convene a Forum on Emerging Infections that would serve as a follow-on activity for these initiatives. In 2003, the Forum changed its name to the Forum on Microbial Threats.
Post-Disaster Recovery of a Community’s Public Health, Medical and Social Services
Disaster recovery efforts may improve community health and promote wellness and resilience by addressing health disparities and the physical, social, and economic dimensions of community life. However, in the field of disaster and emergency management, post-disaster recovery has played an important, if low-profile role in the overall disaster response arena and, when addressed, frequently references the restoration of previously extant physical or economic systems within a community. In particular, the areas of focus tend to center on “bricks and mortar” infrastructure reconstitution (e.g. roads, bridges, housing stock, commercial structures, etc) and/or business and commercial recovery. Often times, absent from these conversations is the critical importance of health, including public health, medical and social services and their roles in supporting overall community recovery.
With support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee will conduct a study and issue a report on how to improve short, intermediate and long-term health outcomes in communities impacted by a catastrophic incident. The committee will investigate and identify key activities, recovery practices and novel programs that impact health outcomes in a community recovering from a disaster, and develop recommendations for their implementation.