work to eradicate those that we have, is far down on the list of budget outlays. He noted that over the last several years there has been a net loss in funding for such programs, resulting in a loss of intellectual and human capital for the industry and the veterinary medical infrastructure. “This is our greatest threat to the health of our cattle and livestock herds in the United States,” he said.
Weber stressed the need for a strong infrastructure at the local, state, and federal levels to prevent foreign animal diseases such as BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) and FMD from occurring in the United States. There are about 100 million head of cattle in the United States, and the risks to industry of such an outbreak would be unacceptable, he said. “Obviously, we believe that the most significant allocation of resources has to be on prevention in the first place. The old saying is ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ and so we are extremely aggressive in asking government to protect our borders.”
Industry could be a very important partner to government agencies and labs in the case of an outbreak or terrorist attack, said Tonelli. Industry has the ability to develop and provide a large number of tests on fairly short notice, with standardized test formats to ensure consistent product performance, he said. Industry can also provide product training and technical support, he added. Tonelli suggested a number of strategies to enhance commercial development of diagnostics, particularly in emergency situations: (1) a mechanism for disease screening at regional sites, (2) creation of a special designation for screening positives that does not “confer any economic impact” until the test is confirmed, (3) establishment of a mechanism to drive consensus on what the test needs are, (4) quicker regulatory approval and/or permission to bring materials into the United States in special circumstances, (5) enhanced collaboration between government laboratories and industry worldwide, and (6) broader industry participation in emerging disease committees.