In September 2001, the United States experienced a series of attacks that had a profound impact on the future of the nation. The terrible events of Septemeber 11, 2001, however, were not the only threats confronting the nation. Less than two weeks after September 11, 2001, non-descript letters began arriving at government offices and media outlets. These letters contained anthrax spores that resulted in at least twenty-two separate cases of anthrax, including five deaths, along the entire East Coast of the United States.
The anthrax attacks awakened the nation to the threat of bioterrorism and provided the impetus for legislation, funding, and preparedness initiatives that have significantly changed domestic and international biopreparedness. While significant gains have been made since 2001, their sustainment is threatened by new concerns and challenges. For example, balancing the response to the economic downturn and shifting national priorities, which have already changed the landscape of biopreparedness, with the need to invest resources to improve the nation’s current bio-response capabilities.
In light of these, and a number of other challenges confronted by our nation’s biopraredness program, the topic of this year’s MARCE Public Health Emergency Response Conference is biopreparedness. Dr. Gerald Kovacs, the Director of the Division of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Countermeasures at the Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority (BARDA) will deliver the keynote address, and there will be two diverse panels of biopreparedness subject-matter experts. Conference attendees are encouraged to engage the panelists during interactive question and answer sessions.
The goal of the conference is to bring leading scientific and medical researchers, representatives from private biomedical industry, and public health responders together so that they may collectively reflect upon the changes to our nation’s biopreparedness capabilities since 2001, to identify current and future challenges and opportunities, and to develop collaborative, innovative solutions for addressing them. This is a rare opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaboration of this nature, which will be essential to bring relevant and innovative medical research from the bench to the field and thereby mitigate the effects of future bioterrorist attacks on public health. There is no fee to attend the conference.