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Preparing for bioterrorism

DECEMBER 12, 2012Baltimore, MD A new book, Preparing for Bioterrorism, written by Gigi Kwik Gronvall and published by the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC, tells the story of some of the important biosecurity projects funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and how they left the nation better prepared to deal with bioterrorism. Each project is its own story in the book. What emerges is a history of the past decade of progress in biosecurity preparedness in communities across the country and around the world.

Before 9/11 and the anthrax letter attacks, the US government was mostly concerned about biological attacks on the military, on soldiersit was not prepared for attacks on civilians. Few had seriously planned for such a biological threat, and there was certainly no multidisciplinary community devoted to improving biosecurity.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation identified this as a critical gap. In 2000 they started funding projects in civilian preparedness and built a network of experts who were working through these problems. Before biosecurity even existed as a professional field, they were in a good position to put their resources and knowledge to work. Over the next 10 years, Sloan would award more than $44 million in grants in the field of biosecurity. Those grants changed the US strategic direction.

Author Gigi Kwik Gronvall, Senior Associate at the Center for Biosecurity of UPMC, chronicles Sloan's leadership in the field and the innovations that followed to show how the foundation helped lay the groundwork on which US civilian biosecurity has been built.

Who should read this? "Anyone who is interested in or works in biodefense and civilian preparedness," says Gronvall. "There is a lot of history in there, and people will learn why things are the way they are and also why preparedness is something that needs to be continually worked on over time."

"I hope other people will read this as a guidebook on how to effect real, positive change in government," she adds. "Because of Sloan's unique management style, and their commitment to try a range of ideas to see what would work, they provide a good tutorial for how to harness the passion, commitment, and energy of a diverse group of experts. And it worked. We have a way to go, but the US is much better prepared for a biological attack than it was in 2001."


Contact: Molly D'Esopo
Center for Biosecurity of UPMC

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