On Public Health Security - November 2015

 Enhancing the Federal Select Agent Program (FSAP)

On Public Health Security
November 2015
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Stephen C. Redd

Dear Partners,

The Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR) undertakes a variety of activities to enhance the nation’s health, ranging from coordinating CDC’s responses to large public health emergencies to managing the supply of critical medicine in the Strategic National Stockpile. This past month, we released a report about another one of our key responsibilities – overseeing the possession, use, and transfer of select agents and toxins at facilities across the country. Select agents are biological agents and toxins that have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety, and can also pose a threat to animal and plant health, and animal and plant products. Before I share with you highlights of the report, let me first describe why facilities work with select agents and what PHPR and our partners do to ensure this work is done as safely and securely as possible.

Research on select agents allows for important scientific discovery and development of life-saving vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic tests. CDC works jointly with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure research is conducted as safely and securely as possible through oversight provided by the Federal Select Agent Program (FSAP). Among its many responsibilities, FSAP inspects facilities that handle select agents and provides guidance to these facilities so they can comply with select agent regulations. There are currently 295 registered facilities in FSAP – 256 are registered with CDC and 39 are registered with USDA.

After two high-profile incidents this year involving select agents at FSAP-regulated laboratories, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and I agreed it was the right time to conduct a review of the program. An internal work group was formed, which included some of CDC’s most talented and respected scientists, to examine the program and to provide recommendations. The report recommendations include changes to the inspection process and the assessment of risk by facilities engaged in vital research, and steps to provide more information to the public about incidents involving facilities’ work with select agents. The recommendations provide a path forward to refine the way CDC inspects and oversees registered facilities, and will make FSAP more effective, efficient, and transparent.

The report’s release marks the beginning of a process to implement the recommendations. Just as the review could not have been conducted without the dedicated work and expertise of CDC scientists, the implementation of the work group’s recommendations will only be successful through collaboration with our partners. I look forward to your continued support and sharing more information with you as we implement new changes in the Federal Select Agent Program.


Thank you,
Stephen C. Redd, MD
Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Noteworthy Resources

The International Society for Disease Surveillance (ISDS) is hosting its 14th Annual ISDS Conference December 9-10, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The theme for the conference is "Harnessing Data to Advance Health Equity," and will focus on how data can be used to promote health equity both locally and globally. Click here to register.


The Fifth Annual Building Resilience through Public-Private Partnerships Conference will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 10-11, 2015. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency, in partnership with the National Protection and Programs Directorate, the DHS Private Sector Office, North American Aerospace Command, and U.S. Northern Command, the conference has a draft agenda available. Click here to register.

CDC Extreme Cold Prevention Guide and eCards Available
The Extreme Cold Weather Prevention Guide combines all of the essential safety tips for keeping you and your family safe this winter during intense weather. PHPR has also created great eCards that can be sent to friends and loved ones, reminding them of safety precautions to take this winter.

Emergency Services Resilience Development Webinar Series: 10th Installment
The ongoing Continuity of Operations Planning series is focused on first responder awareness, capacity building, and education. The November topic is “The Future of Smart Cities: Cyber-Physical Infrastructure Risk” based on a study with first responders completed in 2015. During the webinar, participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments. Registration is still open.