NPRP issued a call for research proposals in August 2002 (DOD, 2002). To evaluate the proposals submitted, it is using the two-tiered approach that IOM recommended in 1993 (IOM, 1993). Proposals first undergo peer review for scientific merit. Those that pass that review then undergo another level of review evaluating how well the proposed research would support NPRP's objectives. Subject-matter experts, clinicians, and consumers chosen by DOD will conduct the programmatic review (DOD, 2002). This report is designed to guide them.

BOX 1-1 Statement of Task

Committee on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies: Assessment of Relevant Science

The Committee will assess the state of science regarding transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) and advise the Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC) and its Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) Office.

Specifically, the Committee will:

  • Recommend research that will best lead to sensitive, reproducible and inexpensive methods for detecting prions and in diagnosing prion diseases/TSE. This will be based on an assessment of critical technologies (current and novel) needed to detect prions.

  • Assess the status of currently available assays and their detection limits based on strains and biological system employed.

  • Assess the availability of standardized and reference reagents as well as physical facilities required to validate assays.

  • Recommend key opportunities for collaboration with foreign investigators that would facilitate the development of effective prion detection methods.

  • Assess the availability of trained investigators and specialized facilities dedicated to prion research and identify any critical gaps.

  • Assess the role that prion diseases pose for the military force including but not limited to the military's food and blood supply.

  • Recommend relevant surveillance efforts and public health policies at home and abroad regarding TSEs in humans, livestock, and wildlife that impact on military health or that urgently require further research.

  • Provide recommendations for future TSE research.

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