Investigation (FBI) is designated as the lead agency for the law enforcement response if a bioterrorism event is detected. (Shea and Lister, 2003)
In 2003 DHS deployed the first generation of BioWatch air samplers. The current version of this technology, referred to as Generation 2.0, requires daily manual collection and testing of air filters from each monitor. DHS has also considered newer automated technologies (Generation 2.5 and Generation 3.0), which have the potential to produce results more quickly, at a lower cost, and for a greater number of threat agents (IOM and NRC, 2009).
In response to a request from DHS, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NRC) hosted a 2-day workshop that explored alternative cost-effective systems that would meet the requirements for a BioWatch Generation 3.0 autonomous detection system, or autonomous detector, for aerosolized agents (see Box 1-1 for the statement of task). This workshop, which took place June 25–26, 2013, in Washington, DC, was held under the aegis of the IOM Standing Committee on Health Threats Resilience, which assists the Office of Health Affairs (OHA) in DHS on a variety of issues related to its mission, including administration of the National Biosurveillance Center and the BioWatch program. Although the IOM and the NRC may be asked to examine other issues regarding BioWatch, the focus of this particular workshop was highly circumscribed, as was explained by William Raub, retired science advisor to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and chair of the workshop planning committee, in his opening remarks. Raub further explained that the workshop was organized to examine the use of four classes of technologies—nucleic-acid signatures, protein signatures, genomic sequencing, and mass spectrometry—that could reach technology readiness level (TRL) 6-plus (in which the technology has been validated and is ready to be tested in a relevant environment [see Appendix E for TRL definitions]) over three different tiers of time frames: technologies that could be TRL 6-plus ready as part of an integrated system by 2016, those that are likely to be ready in the period 2016 to 2020, and those that are not likely to be ready until after 2020. “Our task,” Raub said, “is to look at this exciting collection of technologies in various stages of emergence and distill them such that the DHS staff, as they work forward in planning for an autonomous detector, can make selections within the time frames and the many other constraints with which they are faced, not the least of which are budget and other considerations.”