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2018 National Biodefense Strategy, Aerosolized Ricin Toxin, 1918 Spanish Flu

Ricin model (background image). Credit: Shutterstock, modified

See what we’re reading this week at Global Biodefense on topics including the Affordable Care Act funding mechanisms for pandemic preparedness, unending complexities of the Ebola outbreak, and research on aerosolized ricin.

POLICY + PRACTICES

Pandemic Preparedness Has Been a Boon for U.S. Flu Surveillance, But It Won’t Maintain Itself

Routine flu surveillance isn’t especially different from pandemic response. The day-to-day tasks are the same, the only difference often is that there’s less interest from the public. Still, both capacities are heavily reliant on funding from CDC’s Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases Cooperative Agreement (ELC), which is scheduled to begin a new five-year funding cycle in August 2019. A substantial portion of ELC funding, about $40 million a year comes from the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which the law established as the nation’s first mandatory funding stream dedicated to improving the public health system. If the ACA were repealed and those funds not replaced, it would be a major blow to the country’s flu surveillance system. APHL LabLog

Making Sense of the 2018 National Biodefense Strategy

In September, the Trump administration unveiled its long-awaited National Biodefense Strategy . This week, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory released a second-generation, publicly available tool—free for use at https://bplat.pnnl.gov —that maps out current biodefense responsibilities and brings clarity to the tangle of laws, directives, and agencies that together protect US citizens. The Biodefense Policy Landscape Analysis Tool, or B-PLAT, is affectionately called the “spaghetti monster,” because it visualizes information using spaghetti-like strands to demonstrate relationships between agencies, their specific responsibilities, and the degree of complexity and interconnectedness of the biodefense policy domain. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 

Ebola Has Gotten So Bad, It’s Normal

If Ebola hitchhikes its way into Uganda, Rwanda, or South Sudan, the world community will face tough choices. Option one: Keep on muddling through with the tools, personnel, and funding that have carried the response to date. Option two: Declare a global public health emergency, escalating financing and on-the-ground response to the multibillion-dollar scale seen in West Africa. Option three: Dedicate massive financial resources to pushing Merck and other vaccine-makers to rapidly manufacture millions of doses, and deploy literal armies, acting as security alongside an enormous public health deployment to immunize tens of millions of people in the region. Foreign Policy

Opinion: How to Inoculate Against Anti-Vaxxers

The World Health Organization has ranked vaccine hesitancy — the growing resistance to widely available lifesaving vaccines — as one of the top 10 health threats in the world for 2019. The C.D.C., the nation’s leading public health agency, has a website with accurate information, but no loud public voice. The United States Surgeon General’s office has been mum. So has the White House — and not just under the current administration. That leaves just a handful of academics who get bombarded with vitriol, including outright threats, every time they try to counter pseudoscience with fact. NY Times Editorial Board

The Odd—and Sometimes Tense—Intersection of Cops, Soldiers, and Public Health

The rarely acknowledged intersection of public health and security, which involves both the police and the military, affects responses to everything from polio, Ebola, Zika, and malaria to bioterrorism disasters. “How many times do we see the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria or PEPFAR running huge programs with epidemics that are concentrated in populations that are criminalized or harassed? None of these agencies are willing to step into the police reform space in any tangible way.” Science

OUTBREAK NEWS + THREAT SURVEILLANCE

Symptomatic Zika Virus Results in Prolonged Positive Antibody Tests

About 73% of people with confirmed symptomatic Zika virus still test positive for antibodies 12 to 19 months after infection, according to a study yesterday in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The study was based on samples taken from 62 Zika patients in Miami–Dade County, Florida, who had Zika virus disease confirmed by real-time reverse transcription PCR (rRT-PCR) and symptom onset between June and October of 2016. CIDRAP

WHO Expert: Ebola Outbreak to Continue at Least 6 More Months

The WHO’s deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response said this week the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is likely to continue for at least another 6 months, as DRC officials today confirmed 5 new cases. “This is the most complicated setting we’ve ever experienced in order to stop an Ebola outbreak,” said Salama. “At a minimum, it will take six further months to stop.” Salama made the sobering prediction alongside some promising developments, including a decrease of cases in Beni, the most active outbreak hot spot, which hasn’t seen any new cases in nearly 2 weeks. CIDRAP

SELECT AGENTS

Engineered Botulinum Neurotoxin B with Improved Binding to Human Receptors

Botulinum neurotoxins are a family of potent bacterial toxins, including seven major serotypes (BoNT/A to BoNT/G) and many subtypes. Because of their highly specific action on blocking neurotransmission, BoNTs are used for the treatment of muscle hypertonicity in various medical indications. Treatments are generally well tolerated, but generation of neutralizing antibodies can occur. This paper demonstrates that neuronal surface receptor binding limits the clinical efficacy of unmodified BoNT/B and that modified BoNT/B proteins have promising clinical potential. Science Advances

Rescue of Rhesus Macaques from the Lethality of Aerosolized Ricin Toxin

Ricin toxin ranks at the top of the list of bioweapons of concern to civilian and military personnel alike, due to its high potential for morbidity and mortality after inhalation. In nonhuman primates, aerosolized ricin triggers severe acute respiratory distress characterized by perivascular and alveolar edema, neutrophilic infiltration, and severe necrotizing bronchiolitis and alveolitis. This paper describes the therapeutic potential of a humanized mAb against an immunodominant epitope on ricin’s enzymatic A chain. JCI Insight 

Development of a Human Antibody Cocktail that Deploys Multiple Functions to Confer Pan-Ebolavirus Protection

Passive administration of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) is a promising therapeutic approach for Ebola virus disease (EVD). However, all mAbs and mAb cocktails that have entered clinical development are specific for a single member of the Ebolavirus genus, Ebola virus (EBOV), and ineffective against outbreak-causing Bundibugyo virus (BDBV) and Sudan virus (SUDV). This paper investigates MBP134, a cocktail of two broadly neutralizing human mAbs, ADI-15878 from an EVD survivor and ADI-23774 from the same survivor but specificity-matured for SUDV GP binding affinity, as a candidate pan-ebolavirus therapeutic. Cell & Host Microbe

OPPORTUNITIES

We would like to increase our coverage of opportunities for professionals in the health security community. Please email editor@globalbiodefense.com with information on any relevant openings for internships, fellowships, expert advisory panels, employment, etc.

NIAID Staff Scientist – Structural Biology of Hepatitis C Virus and Other Viral Pathogens

The Laboratory of Infectious Diseases is recruiting an individual with extensive experience in investigating the structural biology of viral proteins. The ideal candidate will have a Ph.D. in biochemistry, molecular and cellular biology, microbiology, or relevant disciplines and have more than five years of hands-on research experience with structural virology and microscopy research. He or she should possess expertise in cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography, and molecular modeling. NIH Closes 2 Feb 2019

NIAID Staff Scientist (Core), Division of Intramural Research

The Laboratory of Immune System Biology (LISB) is recruiting individuals who will have responsibilities in the broad area of computational analysis of diverse data sets from high-throughput assays such as RNA seq, RNAi screens, mass spectrometry/proteomics, high-content imaging, and SNP genotyping, among others. These positions are for a staff scientist (core) in the Office of the Chief, LISB. The incumbents will have an advanced degree (M.D. or Ph.D.) and several years of relevant experience in advanced bioinformatics methods, especially the statistical analysis of large datasets, including quality control, signal extraction, and pathway construction, as well as in integration of diverse data types. NIH Closes 7 Feb 2019

NIAID Staff Scientist, Neuroimmunological Diseases Section

This opportunity is for a staff scientist position in the Neuroimmunological Diseases Section (NDS) of the Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology (LCIM) in the Division of Intramural Research (DIR) at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The mission of NDS is to improve understanding of the mechanisms in central nervous system (CNS) injury, neuroprotection, and repair leading to effective treatments or cure of neuroimmunological diseases, especially multiple sclerosis (MS). Requires a Ph.D. in biology, immunology or biochemistry and at least ten years of postdoctoral research with demonstrated scientific productivity (e.g., first author papers, patents). NIH Closes 16 Feb 2019

Sandia Labs: Intern – Molecular Biology R&D Undergraduate Year Round

The Systems Biology Department is composed of a multidisciplinary team of staff, postdocs, technologists, and students with expertise in microbiology, virology, molecular biology, computational biology, and analytical chemistry. The basic research activities in the department are focused on the identification and characterization of clinical and environmental pathogens, developing a systems-level understanding of host-pathogen interactions, and microbiomes relevant to human health and the environment. Applied research activities are focused on enzyme and microbial engineering for biofuels development, biological detection, and medical diagnostics. On any given day, you may be called on to: Assist with phage therapy research in the Applied Biosciences Laboratory; Perform basic biochemistry tasks such as PCR and assistance with molecular cloning; Prepare protocols, logs and other documents for routine or special assignments. Sandia National Laboratories search for Job ID665406.

Clinical and Public Health Research Fellowships 2019

The Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance invites applications for three Fellowship schemes: Early Career Fellowships, Intermediate Fellowships and Senior Fellowships. The candidates need not be resident in India while applying but should be willing to establish an independent research career in India. Clinicians and Public health researchers do not require a PhD to apply. Nature Preliminary applications due 13 Feb 2019

NBACC Principal Investigator, Eukaryotic Genomics

The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Centeris a Federally Funded Research and Development Center managed and operated by the Battelle National Biodefense Institute (BNBI) for DHS. As part of the NBACC Genomics Group, this position supports the National Biodefense Forensic Analysis Center (NBFAC) and the National Biological Threat Characterization Center (NBTCC) by developing and establishing genetic engineering and synthetic biology methodologies at NBACC. Requires a PhD (or equivalent) in a scientific discipline or engineering, and a minimum of 5 years related experience. NBACC

Aerobiologist Lead at Fort Detrick

Laulima Government Solutions is looking for a qualified Aerobiologist Lead to provide scientific support at the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Disease (NIAID) high containment facility. Masters degree and ability to work in BSL-4 setting required. Must be willing to be immunized with licensed and FDA approved Investigational New Drugs (IND) recommended for persons at risk to occupational exposure of biological agents. Must have the ability to obtain/maintain CDC Select Agent Program approval. Alaka’ina Foundation

HISTORICAL REFLECTIONS

The Doctor and the Pandemic: Spokane’s 1918 Fight Against the Spanish Influenza

Dr. John Anderson was strolling down Riverside Avenue in downtown Spokane when a man spit on the sidewalk in front of him – a common, if foul, occurrence. It was also an arrestable offense, as the man would soon find out. The year was 1918, and Spokane was under something like martial law – but instead of the military giving orders, it was the public health authority. The Spokesman-Review

Medical Countermeasure Development

BARDA Looks to Expand Clinical Studies Network for Biodefense Countermeasures

CBRN Contracts & Grants

Long-Term Effects Following Acute Exposure to Sarin Nerve Agent