- National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center
The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) is a government biodefense research laboratory created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and located at the sprawling biodefense campus at Fort Detrick in Frederick, MD, USA. Created quietly a few months after the 2001 anthrax attacks, the NBACC (pronounced EN-back) is intended to be the principal U.S. biodefense research institution engaged in laboratory-based threat assessment and bioforensics. NBACC will be an important part of the National Integrated Biodefense Campus (NIBC) also being built at Fort Detrick for the US Army, National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Agriculture.
Mission and operations
The core of the NBACC facility (currently under construction) is a cluster of laboratories ranging from BSL-2 to BSL-4 built to hold and assess the threat of small amounts of bacteria and viruses to the people of the United States. Part of the NBACC’s mission is to conduct realistic tests of the pathogens and tactics that might be used in a bioterrorism attack. It seeks to quantitatively answer questions pertaining to what might happen in a biological attack.
The NBACC will be equipped to develop and investigate genetically engineered viruses and bacteria. New and emerging technologies will be evaluated along with delivery devices that U.S. adversaries might use to disseminate the pathogens.
The NBACC coordinates closely with the many Departments and Agencies in the U.S. government, including the U.S. intelligence community which has assigned advisers to the Center.
In June 2006, construction began on a new $128 million, 160,000 sq ft (15,000 m2) facility inside the Ft. Detrick installation. Space inside the 8-story, glass-and-brick structure, scheduled to open in 2008, will be divided between NBACC's two centers:
- The Biological Threat Characterization Center (BTCC), which seeks to identify and prioritize biological threats and our vulnerabilities to those threats through its laboratory threat assessments.
- The National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC), a forensic testing center equipped to identify and characterize the possible culprit pathogens after an attack has already occurred
The BTCC will include biocontainment suites, including BSL- 2, 3, and 4 laboratory space, air-handling equipment, security controls, and other supporting features as well as large aerosol-test chambers where experimental animals will be exposed to deadly pathogens. The new building will be classified as a SCIF, or Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility; access will be severely limited and all of the activity and conversation inside will be presumed restricted from public disclosure.
Until its new building is completed, the NBFAC (in collaboration with the FBI) is borrowing floorspace from the US Army's biodefense facility (see USAMRIID) at Ft Detrick.
The NBACC expects to eventually employ about 120 researchers and support staff.
A business entity spun off from Battelle Memorial Institute will manage NBACC for DHS as an FFRDC. Battelle is well suited for this job as it has experience successfully running other US National Laboratories.
Questions have been raised by some arms-control and international law experts as to the necessity and advisability of the very high level of security surrounding the NBACC and as to whether it does (or will) place the United States in violation of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). (The BWC outlawed developing, stockpiling, acquiring or retaining pathogens "of types and in quantities that have no justification" for peaceful purposes.) Experts at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Biosecurity have been particularly vocal in their criticism.
NBACC’s opponents contend that the facility will operate in a “legal gray zone” and skirt the edges of the BWC which outlaws production of even small amounts of biological weapons. They contend that a high degree of transparency is needed to reassure Americans (and the rest of the world) of the U.S. government's good intentions. In their view, the U.S. government may find it hard in the future to object to other countries testing genetically engineered pathogens and novel delivery systems when they invoke their own national biodefense requirements.
The Bush administration contends that the NBACC is purely defensive and thus its operations are fully legal and in accord with the BWC. A principle is that assessing the technical threat of biological pathogens is essential to inform and help develop biodefense policy. Administration officials say that making small amounts of biowarfare pathogens for study is permitted under a broad interpretation of the treaty. (Some legal experts counter that the treaty does not actually make any distinction between “defensive” and “offensive” activities or intent.)
Officials say that NBACC's work will be carefully monitored and in compliance with the bioweapons convention guidelines as well as normal scientific oversight. The latter will consist, in addition to DHS internal review boards, of a conventional peer-review process involving small groups of scientists who are independent of the research in question (albeit all with government security clearances). However, some activists and bioweapons experts have called for unusual forms of oversight for the NBACC, including panels of well-respected, internationally-known scientists and outside observers from other countries.
On the security "overkill" issue, officials say that much of the lab's less-sensitive work is to be made public eventually.
- Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh, PA; directed by Tara O'Toole, founded by D.A. Henderson.
- Warrick, Joby, "The Secretive Fight Against Bioterror", The Washington Post; Sunday, July 30, 2006; A01.
- Hernandez, Nelson, "Huge New Biodefense Lab Is Dedicated At Fort Detrick", Washington Post, October 23, 2008; p. B1.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Biodefense — refers to short term, local, usually military measures to restore biosecurity to a given group of persons in a given area mdash; in the civilian terminology, it is a very robust biohazard response. It is technically possible to apply biodefense… … Wikipedia
National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (Georgia (country)) — National Center for Disease Control and Public Health is a national agency of the country of Georgia, under the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs. It is based in the capital Tbilisi. The NCDC is tasked with protecting the public s… … Wikipedia
National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity — The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity is a panel of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. It is tasked with recommending policies on such questions as how to prevent published research in biotechnology from… … Wikipedia
DHS Directorate for Science and Technology — The Science and Technology Directorate is the research and development arm of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Contents 1 Leadership 2 Organization 3 Initiatives and Programs 4 … Wikipedia
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Agency overview Formed October 27, 1992 Preceding agencies Office of National Defense Malaria Control Activities (1942) Office of Malaria Control in War Areas (1942 … Wikipedia
Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention — The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (or CCDC; 中国疾病预防控制中心) is an agency of the Ministry of Health of the People s Republic of China based in Beijing, China. It works to protect public health and safety by providing information to … Wikipedia
DHS Science and Technology Chemical and Biological Division — The Chemical and Biological Division of Homeland Security Science and Technology is a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, organized within the Department s Science and Technology Directorate. Its self described mission is to… … Wikipedia
2001 anthrax attacks — A letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle containing anthrax powder killed two postal workers Location New York … Wikipedia
Biological warfare — For the use of biological agents by terrorists, see bioterrorism. Weapons of mass destruction … Wikipedia
Biosafety level — A biosafety level is the level of the biocontainment precautions required to isolate dangerous biological agents in an enclosed facility. The levels of containment range from the lowest biosafety level 1 (BSL 1) to the highest at level 4 (BSL 4) … Wikipedia