Biospecimens and the Information Landscape for Biodefense

By Diane DiEuliis, Natasha Bajema, and Nicholas Winstead

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US biodefense and biosecurity rely on the ability to perform broad biosurveillance, to protect and secure biological agents of concern, as well as to diagnose and mitigate the potential consequences of the spread of global infectious diseases.  Each of these abilities depends upon the collection and identification of biological samples, or, biospecimens.  As genomic sequencing and synthesis tools continue to grow, the genomic information associated with biospecimens is expanding rapidly; the rapid convergence of the physical and digital worlds has yet unexamined impacts to our traditional biodefense frameworks. 

On April 10 2019, the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CSWMD) hosted a workshop to explore the growing digitization of biological data and its implications for biodefense.  Held as part of CSWMD’s project on Emergence and Convergence, this workshop supported ongoing work of the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections, at the request of the National Science and Technology Council of the Office of Scientific and Technology Policy within the White House.  Three panels were convened to initiate discussion on the need for environmental baselines and standards, the challenge in using lists of “select agent” pathogens of concern, and how to achieve better global health security. Read the full report HERE>>>