September 24, 2020

Commission Announces Apollo Program for Biodefense

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Steve Aaron
SRA Communications
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Developing the Capability to take Biological Threats Off the Table is Job One

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 24, 2020) – During a public meeting today of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, Commission Co-Chairs, former Senator Joe Lieberman and Governor Tom Ridge, announced an important new effort aimed at accomplishing what may seem like an impossible goal – to develop the capacity and capability to take biological threats off the table. Drawing inspiration from the legendary Apollo space program that put a man on the Moon in less than a decade, the Apollo Program for Biodefense will examine the Nation’s track record with other successfully executed grand projects, look at how the country is dealing with COVID-19 and other ongoing outbreaks such as Ebola, and develop a national roadmap to tackle these monumental biological challenges.

“We first took up this issue in July 2019 in New York City, when we discussed what we referred to at the time as a Manhattan Project for Biodefense,” said Sen. Lieberman. “That meeting confirmed what we already suspected, that effective biodefense depends on science and technology. We must engage with national and international partners in the government, academia, industry, and other areas of the private sector to take biological threats off the table. We need innovation – the sort of innovation that helps us solve difficult problems posed by biological threats like COVID-19.”

Sen. Lieberman said this project will move forward thanks to the support of two donors, Open Philanthropy and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

“Many of the technological innovations we need to secure the Nation from biological threats already exist, are in development, or have feasible pathways to come to fruition,” said Gov. Ridge. “We need to support them and do everything possible to ensure that we can combat anything that nature, terrorists, and nation-states throw at us. As one of the most innovative and well-resourced countries in the world, we should be able to embark on an Apollo-scale program to meet the biological threat. Such a program needs to be practical. At the least, it should address many of the recommendations we made in our National Blueprint for Biodefense.”

About the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense

The Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense was established in 2014 to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the state of U.S. biodefense efforts, and to issue recommendations to foster change. The Panel’s 2015 report, A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts, identified capability gaps and recommended changes to U.S. policy and law to strengthen national biodefense while optimizing resource investments. Subsequent Commission publications have addressed critical needs for agrodefense, biodefense budgeting, and State, Local, Tribal and Territorial capabilities. In September 2018, the White House released the National Biodefense Strategy, a top recommendation from the Blueprint. The Commission continues to assess biodefense challenges and to urge reform. Former Senator Joe Lieberman and former Governor Tom Ridge co-chair the Commission, and are joined by former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, former Representative Jim Greenwood, former Homeland Security Advisor Ken Wainstein, and former Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco. Hudson Institute is the Commission’s fiscal sponsor.