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Biodefense A Bad Idea whose Time has Come David Ozonoff, MD, MPH Boston University School of Public Health MIT Seminar series on Biosecurity Cambridge,

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Presentation on theme: "Biodefense A Bad Idea whose Time has Come David Ozonoff, MD, MPH Boston University School of Public Health MIT Seminar series on Biosecurity Cambridge,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Biodefense A Bad Idea whose Time has Come David Ozonoff, MD, MPH Boston University School of Public Health MIT Seminar series on Biosecurity Cambridge, MA May 8, 2007

2 BU Biolab Context –National Security State –Provides the justification for all things when things need justification, whether they make sense or not Historically contingent construction so entangled with ideology, politics and real concerns as to be impenetrable to argument

3 Why is “biodefense” a bad idea for public health? Let me count the ways... Distortion of priorities Distortion of public health style Less safe, not more safe Specter of classified research No true civilian oversight Arms control issues

4 Distortion of priorities Within microbiology –Open letter to Zerhouni by 758 microbiologists

5 tularemia: average US cases/year: 122 average US deaths/year: 0 anthrax: average US cases/year: 3* (includes 22 bioterrorism- related cases in 2001) average US deaths/year: 1* (includes 5 bioterrorism- related deaths in 2001) plague: average US cases/year: 5 average US deaths/year: 0 glanders: average US cases/year: 0 average US deaths/year: 0 melioidosis: average US cases/year: 0 average US deaths/year: 0 brucellosis: average US cases/year: 103 average US deaths/year: 0

6 For comparison, US cases/year for diseases caused by other pathogenic microorganisms are as follows [data for ; sources as above]: tuberculosis: 17,403 syphilis: 38,007 gonorrhea: 346,765 salmonellosis: 42,457 pertussis: 8,252 chlamydia: 685,508 meningococcal infection: 2,290 shigellosis: 22,567 streptococcal infection, invasive: 4,371 streptococcal infection, invasive, drug-resistant S. pneumoniae: 3,083 borreliosis: 17,642 legionellosis: 1,334 ehrlichiosis: 591

7 Increase in number of grants for research on prioritized bioweapons agents [http://crisp.cit.nih.gov/] number of new and competing-continuation grants awarded under NIAID and referencing agents that cause tularemia, anthrax, plague, glanders, melioidosis, and brucellosis (Francisella tularensis, Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia pestis, Burkholderia mallei, Burkholderia pseudomallei, Brucella melitensis) : Jan 2005: 497 (133 in Jan 2005) change: 1500% increase

8 number of new and competing-continuation grants awarded under NIAID and referencing agent that causes tularemia : Jan 2005: 93 (19 in Jan of 2005) change: 3100% increase number of new and competing-continuation grants awarded under NIAID and referencing agent that causes anthrax : Jan 2005: 243 (76 in Jan 2005) change: 3500% increase

9 number of new and competing-continuation grants awarded under NIAID and referencing agent that causes plague : Jan 2005: 129 (31 in Jan 2005) change: 590% increase number of new and competing-continuation grants awarded under NIAID and referencing agent that causes glanders : Jan 2005: 10 (3 in Jan 2005) change: 1000% increase

10 Decrease in number of grants for research on non- biodefense-related microbial physiology, genetics, and pathogenesis [http://crisp.cit.nih.gov/] number of new and competing-continuation grants awarded under Microbial Physiology and Genetics Initial Review Group (MBC1, MBC2) : Jan 2005: 289 change: 41% decrease number of new and competing-continuation grants awarded under Bacteriology and Mycology Initial Review Group (BM1, BM2) : Jan 2005: 457 change: 27% decrease

11 Distortion of other public health priorities Effects on federal health attention and resources: influenza A/H2N2 Wholesale rearrangement of personnel assignments related to state and local budget cuts coupled with new BT money “Leaf-raking,” hypertrophy and atrophy

12 Public health “style” Horizontal to vertical –Committee versus incident commander –Becoming an arm of public safety Military mindset and vocabulary –Talking the talk to get in the game –Using “national security” as lever Formerly: When public health works, nothing happens –Now, Nothing works until something happens

13 Less safe, not more safe Soft targets and available weapons Novel pathogens are unavailable unless... Two many laboratories and the human element Bringing public health to its knees (white powder syndrome)

14 Classified and secret research Inevitable consequence of this orientation Does not serve a legitimate scientific or public health agenda Doesn’t permit oversight

15 Lack of civilian oversight Violation of safety standards Violation of community standards of science and public health –“Scientific pornography”

16 Effect on biological arms race Has potential to stimulate an arms race Ultimate consequences unknown but downside extremely bad


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