Countering Bioterrorism: Lessons from 2010 Israeli Exercise, US Perspectives, & International Efforts

Overview

Former Surgeon General of Israel, Dr. Yehuda Danon, offered one of the first briefings to a US audience on “Operation Orange Flame 4”— a recent biopreparedness exercise conducted by the Israeli Defense and Health Ministries and the Defense Forces Home Front Command. The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (HSPI) hosted the forum together with the International Security and Biopolicy Institute (ISBI). Top experts joining as panelists were Barry Kellman, President of ISBI, and Dr. Eric Rose, Member of the National Biodefense Science Board. The roundtable addressed implications for biodefense in the United States and worldwide. HSPI Deputy Director Daniel Kaniewski moderated the event.

The threat of non-state actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction underpinned most of the discussion. “For all of human history, there has been this relationship between concentrated industrial power and the ability to kill lots and lots of people. We are at a moment in history…where the capacity to do mass violence is now something that is devolving to any group of a half dozen people,” said Kellman.

This year’s Orange Flame—a national, biannual exercise in Israel—rehearsed such a nightmare scenario. Two terrorists infected with an unknown agent arrived by plane in Tel Aviv. One went to a major hotel and was found dead 24-48 hours later. The other entered a soccer stadium with an aerosolized form of the virus. 20,000 people were exposed. As part of the drill, the Israelis identified the agent (smallpox), set up response centers to immunize the population, tested coordination of relevant response agencies, and even conducted a mock negotiation and purchase of smallpox anti-viral courses.

In his remarks on the exercise, Danon noted that Israel’s universal healthcare system—specifically its computerized record-keeping—is a crucial asset for biodefense, with all systems reporting to Israel’s Center for Disease Control. “Any unusual disease, any cluster of fever patients in emergency rooms, any unusual laboratory record, everything is directed online to the computer so the system can diagnose any unusual event.”

To build and maintain a culture of preparedness, Israel conducts a bioterror drill every two years in each of its hospitals. First responders and hospital management alike must pass an exam at the conclusion of the drill. “You need the clinical skill on the individual level,” Danon argued. “We hope they will not be the victims…but they also need to have the capability to do the initial diagnosis of what they’re seeing.”

Rose—one of the few Americans to witness Orange Flame 4—praised the openness and large scale of the Israeli exercise. “We in the US don’t do this at all on a systemic basis, and certainly not at the regional scale,” he observed, adding that the Israeli health care system is “remarkably well-coordinated.” Speaking from the point of view of a member of the US National Biodefense Science Board, Rose noted: “One of the highest-level items on our horizon is to create a drilling and simulation culture in the United States. That would entail an enormous amount of coordination, and hopefully use the Israeli model.”

As the old military adage goes, amateurs do strategy; experts do logistics. To that end, Danon remarked that the Israeli drills make a point to evaluate logistical capacity. As a scientist developing countermeasures, Rose acknowledged the primacy of logistics: “If we don’t master the logistics of mounting a response, having…all the great science in the world—especially if you have no quantities of these miracle agents—will be useless.”

Kellman warned that legal obstacles represent another barrier to progress in biodefense. “Legal problems permeate this entire domain,” he said. Whether licensing questions, liability questions, incentivization questions, or a host of other issues, “they are unresolved, unaddressed.”

Featured Speakers:

Dr. Yehuda Danon, Director, Kipper Institute of Immunology, Tel Aviv University Medical School, and Former Surgeon General, Israel Defense Forces

Professor Barry Kellman, President, International Security and Biopolicy Institute, and Professor of Law, DePaul College of Law

Dr. Eric Rose, Member, National Biodefense Science Board, and CEO, Siga Technologies, Inc.

Speaker Biographies

Dr. Yehuda Danon, Director, Kipper Institute of Immunology, Tel Aviv University Medical School, and Former Surgeon General, Israel Defense Forces

Dr. Yehuda Danon is a graduate of the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Medicine, and completed specializations in Pediatrics at the Beilinson Medical Center and Immunology at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot Israel, and UCLA-California.

He served as Surgeon General of the State of Israel from 1986 to1991. Dr. Danon initiated the Schneider Children's Medical Center of Israel (SCMCI) and served as Founding Director of SCMCI until 1997.

Presently, Dr. Danon is Professor of Pediatrics at the Tel Aviv University (TAU) Sackler School of Medicine and director of the Kipper Institute of Immunology. Dr. Danon is also a bioterrorism consultant to the Israeli government and has published more than 300 original papers and six books.
 


Professor Barry Kellman, President, International Security and Biopolicy Institute, and Professor of Law, DePaul College of Law

Barry Kellman is a Professor of international law and is Director of the International Weapons Control Center at the DePaul University College of Law. Professor Kellman's work for the past decade has focused primarily on biological terrorism. Professor Kellman has published widely on: weapons proliferation and smuggling, the laws of armed conflict, Middle East arms control, and nuclear non proliferation, including his most recent book, BIOVIOLENCE: Preventing Biological Terror and Crime (Cambridge University Press, August, 2007).

Professor Kellman's professional work has long been concerned with weapons of mass destruction proliferation and terrorism. He worked for ratification and implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention as lead author of the Manual for National Implementation of the CWC (1993; 2nd ed. 1998) and by testifying to Congress as to the constitutionality of its inspection scheme (1997). He was commissioned by the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) to draft, Managing Terrorism's Consequences (2003) which reviews legal authorities for responding to terror activity in the United States.

He initiated and is Special Advisor to the Interpol Program on Prevention of Bio-Crimes. He served as legal adviser to the National Commission on Terrorism (2000), and was a member of the National Academies of Sciences Committee on Research Standards and Practices To Prevent the Destructive Application of Biotechnology (2003). Professor Kellman also Chairs the ABA Committee on International Security of the Section on International Law. He works closely with the United Nations, many international and regional bodies, as well as with the United States and foreign governments. He has organized major international workshops on bioterrorism and speaks often at other conferences and symposia around the world.



Dr. Eric Rose, Member, National Biodefense Science Board, and CEO, Siga Technologies, Inc.

Eric Rose, MD, is an academic physician and entrepreneur with interests in biodefense, clinical evaluative research and health policy. He is a member of the National Biodefense Science Board, CEO of Siga Technologies, Inc, Executive Vice President for Life Sciences at MacAndrews & Forbes, and chair of the Department of Health Policy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine (see expanded Mount Sinai biography here).

Siga Technologies develops anti-viral drugs for diseases including smallpox, dengue, and Lassa fever. Dr. Rose recently participated in an unprecedented Israeli bioterrorism exercise that included scenarios for the fast transportation of medical countermeasures.

From 1994 through 2007, Dr. Rose served as Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Surgeon-in-Chief of the Columbia Presbyterian Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Rose is a director of Abiomed, Inc. and Keryx Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. Dr. Rose is a graduate of both Columbia College and Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. In addition to his roles at SIGA, Dr. Rose holds a position of Executive Vice President - Life Sciences at MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., a SIGA shareholder.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010) Emergency Preparedness and Response: Bioterrorism. Website. Atlanta, GA: USA.gov

Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (2009) "Prevention of Biothreats: A Look Ahead" Conference proceedings.

Commission for the Prevention of WMD (2010) Commission for the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. Website. Washington, DC

Commission for the Prevention of WMD (2008) World At Risk Website and Report. Washington, DC

Friedman, David. (2010) "The US National Strategy for Dealing with Biological Threats." Tel Aviv, Israel: INSS

Global Security Newswire. (2010) "Israel Conducts Major Bioterrorism Drill." Washington, DC

Graham, Bob and Jim Talent. (2009) “Bioterrorism: Redefining Prevention.” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science.

INTERPOL. (2009) Bioterrorism. Website. Lyon, France

Kellman, Barry. (2010) Testimony to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.

Kellman, Barry, Michael Kraft, Zachary Clopton, and Orley Lindgren. (2010) United States Foreign Policies and Programs to Reduce Bio-Dangers. Washington, DC: ISBI

Kellman, Barry. (2007) "Bioviolence: Preventing Biological Terror and Crime." Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press

National Security Council. (2009) National Strategy for Countering Biological Threats. Washington, DC: The White House

Schneidmiller, Chris. (2010) "US Agencies Must Step Up to Prevent Bioterrorism, Expert Says." Washington, DC: Global Security Newswire

Senate Bill.1649 (2009) "WMD Prevention and Preparedness Act of 2009" Washington, DC: 111th Congress. [For a one-page summary of the bill or a section-by-section breakdown, visit the Commission for the Prevention of WMD website here.]

Sternberg, Steve. (2009) “Behind the scenes, system sniffs for biological attacks.” USA Today


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HSPI's Policy & Research Forum Series spotlights cutting-edge security policy solutions and innovative research. The Series is designed to provide thought leaders in the United States and abroad with a uniquely constructive venue in which to discuss current and future security issues and challenges.

About the International Security & Biopolicy Institute:

The International Security & Biopolicy Institute (ISBI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Washington, DC with staff and partners throughout the U.S. and Europe who work with a global perspective to minimize the social unrest, economic damage, and public health consequences posed by the inherently global threat of bioviolence. The Institute seeks to develop and implement comprehensive policies and initiatives to prevent bioviolence threats and ensure appropriate response to them. For additional information about ISBI, please visit www.biopolicy.org.