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Cooperative Solutions to Local & Global Threats

This week the HSP team attended the 2016 ASM Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases Research Meeting.

HSP Advisory Board member, Dr. Michael Callahan, delivered the opening address with the theme “Global Threats, Collaborative Solutions.” In his talk “Biosurveillance within a Flat Global Landscape,” Dr. Callahan covered a broad range of topics including Ebola, Zika, and the burden of emerging infectious diseases, and how globalization is increasing the rate and way in which these diseases spread globally.

Noting that “you can be anywhere in the world in under 24 hours,” Dr. Callahan called for improving methods for rapid and accurate disease detection and response. He highlighted that developing these solutions requires novel and persisting collaboration between the private and public sector—not only in the United States but in countries around the world. Citing both the successes and failures in the recent Ebola outbreak, Dr. Callahan’s address was both poignant and timely and set the stage for the remainder of the conference.

In addition to Dr. Callahan’s address, Samreen Sarwar, Advisory Board member and 2015 Health Security Futures Fellow, and Michael DeLuca, Health Security Policy Fellow, presented their innovative research.

Samreen is an alumna of the 2015 Health Security Futures Fellowship and developed a local innovative health security research project with her U.S. peer Fellow through the program. At the conference, she  presented a poster on their study, “Pilot Survey of Awareness and Attitudes of American and Pakistani Students towards Dual Use Research.” Their study, a comparison between PhD students from University of Punjab-Lahore and Cornell University, was notable for several key findings including:

Samreen with her poster on “Pilot Survey of Awareness and Attitudes of American and Pakistani Students towards Dual Use Research”
Samreen with her poster on “Pilot Survey of Awareness and Attitudes of American and Pakistani Students towards Dual Use Research”
  • Overall awareness of the DURC concept was limited prior to the
    survey with less than half of all respondents having previously been exposed to the term
  • Both U.S. and Pakistani respondents were unlikely to limit publications to prevent the misuse of their research
  • Though the number of U.S. respondents was limited, U.S. graduate students:
    • Tended not to agree that the concept of dual use research be part of the design and implementation of a life sciences research project
    • U.S. respondents were less likely to be aware of the concept of dual use research and were less likely to feel any obligation to withhold information that could be used for harmful purposes
Michael with his poster on “Medical Surge Capacity in the National Capital Region: Modeling a Pneumonic Plague Bioterror Event”
Michael with his poster on “Medical Surge Capacity in the National Capital Region: Modeling a Pneumonic Plague Bioterror Event”

Michael, Health Security Policy Fellow and medical student at Georgetown School of Medicine, presented his study “Medical Surge Capacity in the National Capital Region: Modeling a Pneumonic Plague Bioterror Event.” His research showed that the Washington, DC National Capital Region (NCR) may be limited in its capacity to provide medical care to all potential victims of a large-scale bioterror event. Specifically, the study demonstrated a large deficit in the number of acute care beds available in the NCR in the first six days to treat the thousands of ill that may result from a successful attack on the area’s public transport system with pneumonic plague. The findings of Michael’s study highlight the need to invest in regional health care coalitions to optimize patient distribution and use of resources during a surge event and to maintain and strengthen other regional and federal resources for emergency public health response.

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