BioBuzz: Capital Region Emerges as Undisputed Leader in War on Infectious Diseases

By September 20, 2021News

With the Delta variant driving over 100,000 new infections per day across the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. While COVID continues to rage, infectious disease experts are not only battling the ongoing pandemic but are on the lookout for the next
virulent threat.

Since 1900, there have been eight different pandemics that concerned public health across the globe, such as Zika, MERS, Ebola, Swine Flu, and others, which have led to the loss of millions of people and billions of dollars in economic losses. That’s one reason for the establishment of the Global Pandemic Prevention and Biodefense Center in Montgomery County, Maryland. When COVID broke last year, a task force urged for the formation of an organization that could peer past the current crisis and put on its prognostication hat to prepare for future threats. With its long history of thought leadership in infectious diseases and vaccines development, as well as its proximity to federal health and regulatory agencies, the BioHealth Capital Region was the perfect fit for the biodefense center.

The $2.5 billion Center will work to accelerate the development of human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to treat the world’s top 100 pathogens across 25 pathogen families most likely to result in disease outbreaks. Not only will the Center develop the mAbs, but it will also implement distribution and delivery protocols across the global public health and pandemic prevention ecosystem.

James Crowe Jr., an immunologist, and pediatrician at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who took part in a roundtable discussion on infectious diseases during the seventh annual BioHealth Innovation Forum said the COVID pandemic is something people do not want to go through again. By establishing the Center and mAbs stockpile, Crowe said the public health community can be one step ahead of future outbreaks, particularly those viral threats that are already known to science.

“We want to make antibodies for pathogens that are likely to create future threats,” Crowe said.

Andy Weber, Senior Fellow of the Council of Strategic Risks, called stockpiling the mAbs a “pandemic assuredness policy.” He pointed to the government’s efforts to create a national stockpile of vaccines for smallpox In case it was used as a biological weapon in the wake of the War on Terror. By proactively thinking about that possibility, Weber said the government has taken that threat off the table. Through a stockpile of antibodies for those 100 threats, Weber said they can remove the threat of biological outbreaks.

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