ated and validated, and centralized repositories of standardized reagents and samples are needed as well. Because the development and evaluation of diagnostics require interdisciplinary applied research, however, it is currently difficult to find targeted funding sources and mechanisms.
Recommendation 3.16: Establish laboratory standards. Set up an oversight standards laboratory to evaluate diagnostic and detection tools; to ensure the availability of standard reagents for academia, industry, and government; and to develop appropriate standards on a continuing basis.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is one agency where these sorts of efforts might appropriately be undertaken.
It is to be expected that many new products will be introduced for detecting and responding to bioterrorist threats, but no mechanism currently exists for evaluating them and comparing their effectiveness. An oversight standards laboratory would have the capacity to evaluate biosensors and diagnostic systems for infectious diseases, develop taxonomies of syndromes and data classifications, improve the quality of the expanding DNA and protein databases, validate methods, develop reagents, create internal standards for diagnostic comparisons for the scientific community, and evaluate methods and standards for personal protective equipment and decontamination.
Government has a vital role to play in basic research on countering biological warfare agents through its own institutions, many of which have enormous expertise that has long been brought to bear in the fight against infectious diseases. It would be inefficient, however—and ultimately ineffective—for government to go it alone, without actively engaging private industry in the race to deploy needed biomedical countermeasures. Indeed, the greatest efficiency in this urgent effort is likely to come from working the broadest possible network of synergy among all institutions of established expertise—public sector entities, academic laboratories, private research institutes, biotechnology start-up ventures, and pharmaceutical companies. The fight is big enough and difficult enough to demand that the entire spectrum of available talent and resources be productively engaged. To build this network, a new partnership model for industry and government is needed that goes beyond the current models of government contracting.
Existing mechanisms for government interactions with the private sector cover a wide range: from simply acting as a customer in the marketplace, through NIH grants, to the comprehensive R&D contracting done by DOD. There seems to be no one best way among these mechanisms, nor any clearly better way